Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #28
Longtan's Name Echoed Long
Longtan's Name Echoed Long
Longtan Chongxin (b. 765?, 10th gen) was a disciple of Tianhuang Daowu (748-807, 9th gen), disciple of Shitou (700-90, 8th gen). Deshan Xuanjian (782-864, 11th gen) was Longtan's disciple. Deshan had been a renowned scholar of the the Diamond Sutra before this meeting with Longtan. Later, Deshan's disciples would include Xuefeng (822-908, 12th gen) and Yantou (828-87, 12th gen).Case
One day Deshan kept asking Longtan for instruction till nightfall.Wumen's Comment
Longtan finally said, "The night is late. Why don't you go to bed."
Deshan thanked him, made his bows, raised the door curtain and left.
Seeing how dark the night was, he turned back and said, "It's pitch black outside."
Longtan lit a lantern and handed it to Deshan.
Just as Deshan reached for it, Longtan blew it out.
At that Deshan came to sudden realization and made a deep bow.
Longtan asked, "What have you realized?"
Deshan replied, "From now on, I will not doubt the words of the old master who is renowned everywhere under the sun."
The following day Longtan ascended the rostrum and declared, "There is a man among you whose fangs are like trees of swords and whose mouth is like a bowl of blood. Strike him and he won't turn his head. Someday he will settle on the top of an isolated peak and establish my Way there."
Deshan brought his sutra commentaries and notes to the front of the hall, held up a torch and said, "Even if you have exhausted abstruse doctrine, it is like placing a hair in vast space. Even if you have learned the vital points of all the truths in the world, it is like a drop of
water thrown into a big ravine."
He then burned all his commentaries and notes. After making his bows, he left.
Before Deshan had crossed the border, his mind was full of resentment and his mouth speechless with anger. He wanted to go the way south, intending to refute the doctrine of the special transmission outside the sutras. When he got to the road to the province of Rei, he asked an old woman if he could buy refreshment from her.Wumen's Verse
The old woman said, "Your Reverence, what are all those books you are carrying in the cart?"
Deshan said, "Those are commentaries on the Diamond Sutra."
The old woman, "In that sutra, it says the past mind can't be caught; the present mind can't be caught; the future mind can't be caught. Your Reverence, with which mind are you going to take refreshment?"
This one question tightly shuts Deshan's mouth, but hearing the old woman's words, he still did not completely die away. He asked her, "Is there a Zen master near here?"
She replied, "Master Longtan lives a couple miles away."
After Deshan arrived at Longtan's, he was entirely defeated. It must be said that his former and latter words are not consistent. It seems that Longtan, forgetting his own unsightliness, took too much pity on Deshan. Seeing a live charcoal in Deshan, he immediately threw muddy water over his head to extinguish it. Looking at the whole affair coolly, I think it is just a farce.
Seeing the face is better than hearing the name;Baiyun's Verse
Hearing the name is better than seeing the face.
Even though he saved his nose,
Alas, he lost his eyes!
When light and dark overcome each other, that is not worth talking about;Baoning's Verse
As long as there is any interpretation, this is not yet intimacy.
When the paper torch went out, the eyes emerged.
Breaking through the empire of China, finding no one at all.
All at once a cascade comes down before the cliff;Dahong's Verse
In the middle of the night, the sun is bright in the palm of his hand.
Opening wide his mouth, he expresses the energy of spirit;
With whom will he travel freely throughout the world?
When light and dark form each other, things are vague and remote;Cleary's Comment
Who would have known the back of his head would gush with spiritual light?
All in all he drew the line, cutting off the path of a thousand distinctions;
South, North, East, West, he arrives at his native village.
Overall, the story illustrates a sudden shift from ratiocinative conceptual consciousness to immediate all-at-once cosmic consciousness. The "darkness outside" represents unknown dimensions of reality beyond the confines of ordinary perception and thought. The Zen teacher hands the hesitant seeker a paper torch, which represents the ordinary exercise of the intellect, thus demonstrating the incommensurability of the tiny light of the torch with the immense vastness of the dark. This simple action further shows how the impression of illumination given off by the torch depends on keeping the eyes trained on the immediate vicinity of the torch itself, just as reason only works within its own self-circumscribed parameters.Low's Comment
What happens when the light goes out? How dark it would be. In such darkness what could be seen? The alchemists say, "Our sun is a black sun."Sekida's Comment
Longtan acted intuitively, not conceptually, in blowing out the candle. Sensation (the first nen) plays an important role in realization, and Longtan intuitively knew this. The sudden change from light to darkness had a great effect on Deshan. But if the action had been done intentionally, all would have been spoiled.Senzaki's Comment
Can't you see the dull face of Deshan, receiving a lighted candle that illuminated only a few feet around him? Then Longtan blew it out! The hungry dog suddenly turned into a lion. Johann Tauler, the fourteenth-century mystic who was a disciple of Meister Eckhart, had an experience like Deshan's. He wandered in the world of wilderness and passed through absolute darkness and the bottomless abyss. Then suddenly he entered into the realm of inner truth and declared, "God is Nothingness." Zen students: do not tarry in the realm of nothingness. Pass through the darkness and see that "God is Everything." Until that moment, candles and torches are blown out in vain.Shibayama's Comment
As it was dark outside, Deshan turned around and said, "It is pitch dark outside." Not only outside but iwthin, his mind too must have been like a dark abyss. Psychologically, he was in a touch-and-go situation. Longtan quietly lit the candle and handed it to him. Just at themomen when Deshan was about to take it, he blew it out with one breath. What superb working! What excellent instruction! In an instant the whole universe was in sher darkness again, and at this moment, all of a sudden Deshan's relativistic self was dispersed, like a barrel unhooped. This is the great inner conversion which has been described in Zen: "The world has collapsed and the iron mountain has crumbled!"Yamada's Comment
How incompentent intellectual understanding can be! Why did Deshan come to realization so soon after he met the master? He was ready for it. Previous to that moment, knowingly or unknowingly, Deshan's practice had been accumulating and had matured sufficiently so that the hard ball of doubt broke with one probe from the master. When Longtan blew out the candle, he was actually blowing out the darkness! Deshan deeply realized Longtan's view that all living beings are Buddha from the beginning.Hotetsu's Verse
He shone with the light of his knowledge.
It was a beautiful, wonderful thing, really.
Also beautiful is how much farther it is possible to see
In the dark.
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