Blue Cliff Record 55

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #55
Daowu's 'I Won't Say'

Daowu Yuanzhi (769-835, 10th gen) was a disciple of Yaoshan (751-834), who was a disciple of Shitou (700-90). Jianyuan Zhongxing (b. ca. 800?) was a student of Daowu's and Shishuang Qingzhu (807-88) was Daowu's dharma heir. Taiyuan Fu (b. ca. 856? 13th gen) was a disciple of Xuefeng. The case deals with two episodes, about 35 years apart. The first happened about 835, when Daowu was about 66 years-old and Shishuang about 28. The second was probably about 868, 33 years after Daowu's death, when Shishuang was about 61.
One day Daowu, accompanied by his disciple Jianyuan went to visit a family in which a funeral was to take place, in order to express sympathy.
Jianyuan touched the coffin and said, "Tell me, please, is this life or is this death?"
Daowu said, "I don't say life; I don't say death."
Jianyuan said, "Why don't you tell me?"
Daowu said, "I won't say, I won't say."
On their way home, Jianyuan said, "Master, please say it to me right away. If you don't, I shall hit you."
Daowu said, "Strike me if you like, but I will never say."
Jianyuan struck Daowu.
Some time later Daowu passed away. Jianyuan came to Shishuang and told him the whole story.
Shishuang said, "I don't say life; I don't say death."
Jianyuan siad, "Why don't you tell me?"
Shishuang said, "I won't say, I won't say."
Upon these words, Jianyuan attained sudden realization.
One day Jianyuan, carrying a hoe, went up and down the lecture hall as if he were searching for something.
Shishuang said, "What are you doing?"
Jianyuan said, "I am seeking the sacred bones of the late master."
Shishuang said, "Giant billows far and wide; whitecaps swelling up to heaven. What sort of sacred bones of your late master are you searching for?"
["Heavens! Heavens!" --Xuedou]
Jianyuan said, "That was very good for me in order to gain power."
Taiyuan Fu said, "The sacred bones of the late master are still there."
Yuanwu's Preface
Absolute truth -- direct enlightenment; positive activity -- immediate understanding. Quick as sparks and lighting, he cuts through the complications. Sitting on the tiger's head and grasping its tail, he is still like a thousand-foot cliff. Be that as it may, is there any case for giving a clue for others' sake? See the case.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Hares and horses have horns,
Cows and goats have none.
   Rabbits and horses have horns; oxen and rams are hornless.
It is quite infinitesimal,
It piles up mountain-high.
   Nary a hair, nary a wisp; massive as giant mountains.
The golden relic exists,
It still exists now.
   The golden relics are still present now;
Foaming waves wash the sky.
Where can you put it? -- No, nowhere!
   With foaming waves flooding the skies, where can they be put?
   There's no place to put them;
The single sandal returned to India
And is lost forever.
   They've been lost, even on the way back west with one shoe.
Hakuin's Comment
Alive? Dead? Buddha spoke of not being born and not passing away; what about you?
Daowu won't say alive, won't say dead. He presents a pearl that lights the night, along with a tray and all. If it were up to me, I'd say, "Are you alive or dead?"
Why won't you say? The fool thought the teacher wouldn't say because he was keeping it a secret.
Tell me at once. What a bunch of hopeless cathedral-pigeon shit!
Shishuang also said, "I won't say." He is extremely kind. Gentlemen have the same manners everywhere. He presents a pearls that lights the night, tray and all.
Tenkei's Comment
Why not say? When you have seen what this is ultimately all about, it has no life to be considered alive and no death to be considered dead. What is this?
Sekida's Comment
From death there is no escape. It is the extinction of one's self. When one becomes truly aware of this, one can find no place to take refuge. Jianyuan was crying inwardly. He had seen death with his own eyes. He was hanging on Daowu, asking for help, like a frightened child clinging to its mother. Daowu's refusal to answer was cruel because he understood the matter too well. He know Jianyuan's heart-rending misery. He gave a direct answer. This problem of death cannot be solved by discussion, that is, by conceptual manipulation. Although it appears cruel, Jianyuan must be left to solve this problem for himself, with his own mind and body. In the end you have to solve it for yourself through your own zazen practice. Life and death repeat endlessly. Living and dying, we create the stream of being. Can it be called life or can it be called death? But this sort of discussion will not help you to meet the problem of death. Though an individual may be only the tiniest component on the stream of being, one's individuality constitutes a whole world for oneself. It needs to solve this question as a matter of desperate importance. At such a crisis one feels like using any means to force the other to answer. The urgency of the question drove Jianyuan to hit his teacher. This was such a great transgression that Daowu told Jianyuan to leave the temple for a while lest harm befall him, for if the other monks discovered what had happened they would take action against Jianyuan. Later, Shishuang, knowing his teachers method, repeated Daowu's words. But it was not imitation. Yuanwu comments here, "Very fresh."
Jianyuan then carries the hoe, intending thereby to express his understanding.
"Limitless expanse of might roaring waves; foaming waves wash the sky." This means that the dead teacher's spiritual remains pervade the entire universe.
"It is a way of acquiring strength." This is an idiomatic phrase meaning, "Thank you for your teaching."
"The deceased teacher's spiritual remains still exist." This is bringing the story to its ultimate conclusion.
Yamada's Comment
Yasutani Roshi sees Daowu as saying, "I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to." Why not? Because he is neither living nor dead. Both life and death are concepts which were subsequently created by human beings. All words are merely compromises. There is nothing to understand; the corpse is just lying there.
From the essential standpoint, there is a world which does not change, regardless of the unfolding of phenomena. Viewed in terms of that which lives from the beginningless past to the endless future, there is neither life nor death.
This "alive or dead" is the same as "being or not being." From the phenomenal standpoint it is there. But from another standpoint there is nothing at all. "Not a speck of cloud obstructing the view." These two aspects of "having" and "not having" must be clearly grasped, together with the fact that they are intrinsically the same thing. Daowu is saying, "I won't tell you. Or rather, I cannot tell you. Realize it for yourself."
When Jianyuan marches up and down in the hall with a hoe in his hand, staring intently from side to side, he is displaying his understanding of the essential fact. But his action also betrays a certain air of self-satisfaction.
Shishuang says, "On the billows of the great ocean, whitecaps swell to the sky," he is not simply evoking a seascape. This is just a simile for our everyday lives. On the great ocean of our essential nature the waves rise and fall continuously: standing up, sitting down, sleeping and rising, eating and drinking. Where are the bones of the late master to be found? Where are you going to look for the remains of our dead master if not in the sitting, standing, sleeping, rising, eating and drinking which are the waves on the great ocean of our essential nature? We could also add mountains, rivers, grasses and trees. In short, the entire phenomenal world. To speak plainly, this itself is the remains of the departed master. This is the reason why Taiyuan Fu says later, "The sacred bones of our later master still exist." There is not a single thing which is not the remains of the departed master. Yamamoto GempĂ´ Roshi, whenever anyone died, would say, "He was not born, neither did he ever die. He is gone nowhere, he is right here. Don't ask him, he will not answer." Even when the body passes away, nothing at all is missing.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
Death is not necessarily death nor is life necessarily life. Daowu and Shishuang both pointed at the dead body and said: I will not say alive and I will not say dead. That is indeed so. The substance of the Universe, if looked at analytically, is smaller than the smallest conceivable line, but if looked at from the point of view of its size, it is like a great mountain-peak rising up in front of our very eyes. Jianyuan took that garden hoe into the Hall of Worship and went round searching for the relics of his old teacher. Now those relics, no doubt, exist but they are filling the True World, and are not to be found by looking for them in any specified place. The universalized self, like great white storm-waves breaking against the heavens, has no one place of abode.
Rothenberg's Verse
Condolence Call
If you're close to reality, you can turn things around.
Is there a way to draw an unbroken path?
You come to the door for a condolence call:
Tap the coffin and ask,
"Alive or dead? Tell me right now."
I won't say, I won't say.
"Then what are you doing?"
Looking for relics of the Master.
"Waves spread far, clouds flood the skies. What else do you want?"
Heavens! Heavens!
He buys the hat to fit your head.
He pours water down on you.
He comes close to take you.
In the heavens and on earth,
he's found life in death --
smooth sailing from here on.
Does everyone see them? They flash like lightning.
Whose worn out sandals are these?
Rabbits and horses with horns! How bizarre! Chop them off.
Oxen and rams without horns! How bizarre! Chop them off.
You may fool others, but what pattern is that?
White foam fills the skies, where can relics be hid?
They won't fit in your eyes or your ears.
Hardly a memory, barely a wisp --
Clouds like mountains, turn like peaks.
Daido's Comment
Grappling within the forest of brambles, Zen practitioners the world over probe the question of life and death. Before it is realized,
it is like a ten-mile-high wall or a bottomless gorge. After it is seen, it is realized that, from the beginning, the obstructions have always been nothing but the self.
Lost in the doulbe barrier of life and death, the monastic has to know. Because of intimacy, the old master won't say. From the time of the Buddha down to the present, this is how it has been. However, if you think this old koan is about the corpse being alive or dead, then you too have missed the old master's teaching.
There is no place to put this gigantic body. When the universe collapses, "it" is indestructible.
Daido's Verse
In arriving, not an atom is added --
thus life is called the unborn.
In departing, not a particle is lost,
thus death is called the unextinguished.
Richard von Sturmer's Verse
Daowu's "I Won't Say"

I won't say
if the sperm fertilizes the egg
although the moon is above
and the earth is below.

I won't say
where the crow sleeps at night
although the wind is cold
and the snow is wet.

I won't say
I won't say
I won't say.
Hotetsu's Verse
Alive or dead? Form or emptiness?
Meaning or no meaning? The body,
beautiful and poignant, presents all that has passed.
For a while it moved; then it stopped.

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