Blue Cliff Record 32

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #32
Elder Ding Stands Still

Linji Yixuan (812?-867, 11th gen) was a disciple of Huangbo (d. 850, 10th gen), disciple of Baizhang (720-814, 9th gen), disciple of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen). Linji is the founding figure of the Linji House, one of the five houses of Zen. Elder Ding's dates are unknown. He was one of Linji's spiritual heirs.
Elder Ding asked Linji, "What is the essence of Buddhism?"
Linji, getting up from his seat, seized Ding, slapped him, and pushed him away.
Ding stood still.
A monk standing by said, "Elder Ding, why don't you bow?"
As he bowed, Ding suddenly became enlightened.
Yuanwu's Preface
Once the delusive way of thinking is cut off, a thousand eyes are suddenly opened. One word blocking the stream of thought, and all nen-actions [myriad impulses] are controlled. Is there anyone who would undergo the experience of dying the same death and living the same life as the Buddha? Truth is manifest everywhere. If you do not see it, this case is an ancient example.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Inheriting the spirit of Huangbo,
   Huangbo's whole potential follows in his footsteps;
How could he be gentle and quiet?
   Brought forth, why should it remain at ease?
Not difficult for Kyorei
To lift his hands and split Mount Kasan,
   The great spirit lifted its hand without much ado
Letting the Yellow River through.
   Splitting Flower Mountains's ten million layers.
Hakuin's Comment
Linji grabbed Ding. Cut through with a single statement, and myriad impulses cease; it is necessary to break up everything, even satori, so Linji grabbed him with his left hand and slapped him with his right hand.
Ding stood there, as if nothing had happened. Splendid! This state manifested because of the power of stability deriving from long-term practice of meditation. This is where the waves of the ocean of learning evaporate overnight -- let him stand there till tomorrow.
The monk standing by was indeed perceptive, one of Linji's associates. As Ding bowed, he simply revived; there is no odor of satori here.
Tenkei's Comment
Linji slapped Ding. What "great meaning of Buddha's teaching" would you talk about here?
Ding stood there, a complete blank, unaffected. A bystander suggested that he bow and be done, to close the matter. It's not that he had not had a vision of enlightenment, it's just that his awkwardness was spoiling the party.
Sekida's Comment
What is the essence of Buddhism? Every time this question is raised it seems fresh and new. That is why it is so often asked, and why there are so many answers to it.
Linji seized, slapped, and pushed him away. This can happen only when a close relationship exists between teacher and disciple. Although the disciple is not aware of his own condition, the teacher perceives it as clearly as if he were looking at an aerial photograph and could point out on it the precise mountain that the student is struggling up. He can do this because he has himself been through that experience.
Ding stood still. His condition at this moment is aptly described as, "The bottom of his pail had fallen out." Imagine you were carrying water in a pail and its bottom suddenly fell out. This is a subtle moment. If chance favors you, openness and emptiness will suddenly appear within you. All the complications that beset you will suddenly be gone, and you will truly understand the emptiness of which you have heard so much but hitherto could not grasp.
A monk said, why don't you bow? A chance event or remark, such as that unwittingly provided by the monk in this episode, may count for much in the kensho experience, just as it does when one has a sudden idea while trying to solve an intellectual problem.
Ding became enlightened. Kensho means seeing into one's own true nature. When this occurs, there is first an intuitive looking into the object (the action of the first nen), and then comes reflection on it by the second and third nen. The moment Ding became aware of the necessity of blowing, he was reminded of himself, and this reflection upon himself brought about this kensho experience. The first nen's intuitive action of looking into the object is an action of pure ego. Reflecting upon this pure ego is seeing into one's own true nature, and the kensho experience is brought about. However, we are every moment reflecting upon ourselves (and thus are conscious of ourselves), but the kensho experience does not normally occur because the third nen (which carries out the reflecting, integrating, and synthesizing operations of the mind, and has come to assume the position of representing our self-consciousness itself), is permeated through and through with a utilitarian way of thinking. We call this state of affairs the deluded, habitual way of consciousness. It is this which blocks the intuitive, pure cognition of the first nen.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
The whole force of Huangbo's character was handed down to his successor, Linji who, being the tough sort of person that he was, could not help being rough and impatient in his methods. So he responded to Ding's question in a characteristic way. He had no diffficulty whatsoever in dealing with his questioner. He was like that legendary Kyorei (a legendary figure, a sort of Chinese Hercules who by one stroke of his hand cleft the mountain ranges of Ka which were hidering the flow of the Yellow River to the ocean), who just lifted up his hand and without and difficulty piled up the Mountains of Ka into their ten thousand ranges.
Yamada's Comment
"What is the great meaning of Buddhism?" Ding means "the ultimate reality" or "the fundamental fact" of the Buddhist dharma. The "great meaning of Buddhism" is the fundamental fact of Buddhist dharma. We could also say "truth," but this gives the impression of something abstract and logical, which is not entirely appropriate. Ding is asking, "What is the ultimate fact of Buddhism?" This is precisely what everyone wants to know.
Linji grabbed, slapped, and pushed him away. This is typical of Linji. What a rough treatment!
Ding just stood there, at a complete loss what to do. This is a nice state of mind. All of his delusive thoughts have disappeared. Ordinarily, a person in such a situation would grow angry, "Is that what an honorable master should do to a student?" Why, there might even be a brawl! But Ding simply stood there stupefied. This is the moment of the great death, with all delusive thoughts totally exhausted. But, if you stop here, nothing would happen. Only a bothersome period would follow. To be fixed in this vertical position is a fatal error; you need another leap
forward. Then all things open up – it's the "great resurrection."
A monk standing nearby suggested that Ding bow. I'm not sure whether this monk had an enlightened eye or not. Hearing this, Ding started to bow and, at this very instant, all things collapsed. It was the "great resurrection." This last "one stroke" can be occasioned by many things. In our present Case, it was the phrase, "Why don't you bow in thanksgiving?" This was "the one word that cuts though the current," by which all delusive thoughts are chopped off.
Rothenberg's Verse
The Elder Stands Still
Stand still until the time is right --
so many people are lost when they move.

There's a man standing by who sees through it all.
He has completely attained another one's power.
He uses effort to make up for lack of skill.
He is always passing in and out through your senses.
He face turns yellow and green.
What can be done about the fact that there is such a man?
Strike once with a whisk, split the blossoming mountain to bits.
The whole world appears right now.
Its layers have fallen apart.

His doubt itself is a mountainous heap,
the pieces of his life discarded.
When he steps, the snowpack has started to melt,
when the sun is above no shadows are cast.

At night the fragile ocean sparkles with clumps of light:
Worry for the tangible world.
Hotetsu's Verse
So the essence of Buddhism is: you get slapped and shoved.
Also: Bowing in gratitude.
In this gentle roughness
Gnawing hunger is itself the food.

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