Blue Cliff Record 19, Book of Serenity 84

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #19
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #84
Jinhua's One Finger (briefer version)

  • JINHUA Juzhi (Kinka Gutei, b. 811?, 11th gen), disciple of Hangzhou Tianlong (d. 9th century).
  • Date guess: 871
Yuanwu's Preface (Sato)
When a particle of dust is raised, it comprises the great earth.
When a flower blooms, the world springs forth.
But when dust is not yet raised, and a flower has not yet bloomed, how can it be seen?
Therefore, I say, it is like cutting a skein of thread: with one cut, it is all cut; or like dyeing a skein of thread: with one dyeing, all is dyed.
Now, if you cut off all complications, and bring forth your family treasure, then you comply everywhere with high and low, and there is no difference between front and back; each one will be fully manifest.
If you are not yet so, look at the lines below.
Compare: William Blake's verse: "To see a world in a grain of sand, /And a heaven in a wild flower; /Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, /And eternity in an hour."

Wansong's Preface (Sato)
One hearing, a thousand realizations; one understanding, a thousand follow suit.
The people with the highest spirit capture all when one has been decided;
The people with the middle and lower spirits hear much, but do not believe much.
I will try to bring up the clear and the simple matter, look!
Case (Sekida)
Jinhua, whenever he was asked a question,[1] only raised a finger.[2]
[1] What news is there? Dull-witted teacher!
[2] This old fellow too would cut off the tongues of everyone on earth. When it's warm, all heaven and earth are warm; when it's cold, all heaven and earth are cold. He snatches away the tongues of everyone on earth.

[2] Why expend so much energy?
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida, italics Cleary)
Well now! I like Jinhua's way of answering.
   For responsive teaching I deeply admire old Jinhua;
Who could compare with him throughout the whole universe?
   Since the universe has been emptied, who else is there?
He let down the wooden float into the dark sea,
   Having cast a float of driftwood onto the sea,
Making the blind turtle sink and swim and cling to it.
   In the night waves together we take in blind turtles.
Note: A story from the Parinirvana Sutra: There was once a tortoise living in the deep sea. It had no eyes in its head, but only one in the middle of its belly underneath. So the poor creature could not look up to see and worship the sun, and it was greatly distressed. But one day, by great good luck, a single board with a hole in it came floating by. The tortoise managed with considerable difficulty to cling onto it from underneath in an upside-down position, put his eye to the hole in the board, and look upwards and so see and worship the sun. (R.D.M. Shaw)

Hongzhi's Verse (Wick, italics Cleary)
Old Jinhua's fingertip Zen.
   Old Jinhua's fingertip Chan --
For thrity years, inexhaustible.
   Thirty years he used it without wearing it out.
Truly a man of the Way has limitless stratagems,
   Truly he has the unconventional technique of a man of the Way --
but common people can't see it in front of them.
   Ultimately there are no mundane things before his eyes to see.
What is gained is so utterly simple,
   His realization most simple,
yet expedients become endless in number.
   The device the more broad.
Thousands of lands and seas swallowed up by a hair-tip.
   An ocean of billions of worlds is drunk in the tip of a hair.
Boundless dragons falling into whose hands?
   Fish and dragons, limitless -- into whose hands do they fall?
Ninko's holding the fishing pole is appreciated.
   Take care, Mr Ren, holding the fishing pole.
I too raise one finger and say, "See?"
   Hongzhi then also raised a finger and said, "Look!"
Yuanwu's Comment
If you understand at the finger, then you turn your back on Jinhua; if you don't go to the finger to understand, then it's like case iron. Whether you understand or not, Jinhua still goes on this way; whether you're high or low, he still goes on this way; whether you're right or wrong, he still goes on this way. If you understand it as a finger, you definitely won't see the Ancient's meaning. This kind of Chan is easy to approach but hard to understand. People these days who just hold up a finger or a fist as soon as they're questioned are just indulging their spirits. It is still necessary to pierce the bone, penetrate to the marrow, and see all the way through in order to get it. Mountains, rivers, and earth, extending upward to the solitary heights; myriad forms in profuse array penetrate down through dangerous precipices. Where will you find one finger zen?
Background Tale (Yuanwu)
Master Jinhua was from Jinhua in Wuzhou (in modern Zhejiang Province, south of the city of Hangzhou). During the time he first dwelt in a hermitage, there was a nun named Shiji ('Reality') who came to his hut. When she got there she went straight in. Without taking off her rain hat she walked around his meditation seat three times holding her staff.
"If you can speak," she said, "I'll take off my rain hat." She questioned him like this three times. Jinhua had no reply.
Then as she was leaving Jinhua said, "The hour is rather late: would you stay the night?"
The nun said, "If you can speak, I'll stay over."
Again Jinhua had no reply. The nun then walked out.
Jinhua sighed sorrowfully and said, "Although I inhabit the body of a man, still a lack a man's spirit." After this he aroused his zeal to clarify this matter.
He meant to abandon his hermitage and travel to various places to call on teachers to ask for instruction, and had wrapped up his things for foot-travelling. But that night the spirit of the mountain tole him, "You don't have to leave this place. Tomorrow a flesh and blood bodhisattva will come and expound the truth for you, Master. You don't have to go."
As it turned out, the following day Master Hangzhou actually came to the hermitage. Jinhua welcomed him ceremoniously and gave a full account of the previous events.
Hangzhou just lifted up one finger to show him. Suddenly Jinhua was greatly enlightened.
At the time Jinhua was most earnest and single minded, so that bottom of his bucket fell out easily. Later, whenever anything was asked, Jinhua just raised one finger.
When he was nearing death, Jinhua said to his assembly, "I attained Hangzhou's one-finger Chan and have used it all my life without exhausting it. Do you want to understand?" He raised his finger, then died.
Ancients' Dialog (Yuanwu)
Changquing (854-932): Delicious food is not for a satisfied man to eat.
Xuansha (835-908): If I had seen him then, I would have broken the finger off.
Xuanjiao: When Xuansha spoke this way, what was is meaning?
Yunju Yi: When Xuansha spoke this way, was he agreeing with Jinhua or not? If he agreed with him, why did he speak of breaking off the finger? If he didn't agree with him, where was Jinhua's mistake?
Caoshan: Jinhua's realization was crude: he only recognized one device, one perspective. Like everyone else, he claps his hands and slaps his palms, but I look upon Nanyuan as exceptional.
Xuanjiao: But say, was Jinhua enlightened or not? Why was Jinhua's realization crude?
Another Background Tale/Verse (Wansong)
Late Chan Master Jiashan Lai was living at Tianning, west of Zhenfu, when someone asked, "Where is Master Iron Ox's tomb?" Jiashan pointed with his finger; the man was suddenly awakened, and made a verse saying,
Iron Ox, Iron Ox!
Don't seek elsewhere anymore.
If someone asks me,
I'd raise a finger.
Fuguo's Verse (Wansong)
How could the operative circumstances of question and answer be easy to reply to?
Without money it's hard to be really stylish.
In his heart there's something, but he can't say it;
He just holds up his finer in the midst of hurry.
Tenkei's Comment
Who would ever visit him, anyhow? His tactic is bold, trying to silence everyone in the world with one finger. There shouldn't even be time to lift a finger; whatever meets the eyes is already complete.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
Jinhua's finger was that floating board with one hole in it. And many 'blind tortoises' followed one another to Jinhua's teaching, in their attempts to see the vision. But it was difficult for them to understand what the old Patriarch meant by the lifting up of one finger. It was, indeed, as difficult as it was for that blind tortoise to put his eye exactly below the hole in the floating board.
Wick's Comment
What's the essential truth of Zen? He just raised one finger. Why did Bodhidharma come from the west? Raised one finger. Does a dog have Buddha nature? Raised one finger. What is your original face? Raised one finger. What is that one finger? It's not the finger pointing at the moon; it's the moon itself. The morning star that brought Buddha to enlightenment, the sun, the great earth, and all beings everywhere. It's enlightenment. It's delusion. It's effort. It's sloth. It's humility. It's pride. It's compassion and greed. Whatever you say it is, it's not that. Don't think that that finger represents something. That finger penetrates the depths of the ocean, and beyond the Milky Way. It penetrates to your best-kept secrets, and yet it hides nothing. It reveals Hangzhou's guts, and Jinhua's guts, and the boy-attendant's guts, and your guts! So tell me: How do you present that one finger? Jinhua's one finger was never exhausted, never boring, always there, always available. That one finger appears on countless hands. Jinhua some time in the 9th-century. Where is Jinhua's finger now?
Yamada's Comment
As we know from science, crystals are formed by first dissolving sufficient material into a liquid to form a supersaturated solution. If left in that state, nothing happens. To have crystals form, the beaker with the solution in it must be tapped lightly, to jar the solution. Jinhua's case was similar to this. Interiorly he was supersaturated and needed only to be jarred by the raising of a finger in order to come to realization. "How happy he must have been!" commented Nakagawa Sôen Roshi once, "It's vastly different from the enlightenment cases which occur today with the koans 'Mu' or 'The Sound of One Hand.'" At any rate, he broke open to clarity with scarcely a trace of delusion remaining. What did he see? The world where there is not one thing. He clearly understood that the single raised finger exhausted the entire universe, that by it the universe was annihilated. That was Gutei's providential karma. The raising of the one finger manifests the entire universe. That is, Zen enlightenment is to see clearly the world of empty-oneness. This koan is a very good example of that. When the world of empty-oneness is clearly grasped in the raising of a finger, all delusions are cut off. "With one hack, it is all cut; with one dyeing, all is dyed." Only a person who has clearly realized his true self can really appreciate this story.
Rothenberg's Verse
One Finger Zen

one speck of dust contains the world
bloom of the earth in a single flower

before it appears, how can you see it?
cut one blade of grass and all will die

If they ask you, give them the finger,
which finger to give is up to you;
with this silence you cut off all tongues here on earth --
snatch away everyone's voices on earth

warm and cold in heaven and hell
warm and cold inside you

cast a driftwood piece back into the ocean
once it drifted to you and then now you can't reach it

Swim in the surf and take in the blind turtles
Send them on to a world where no Buddhas are found
Empty it all, empty inside and out.

A blind turtle climbs through a hole in the driftwood,
Pulls himself up right out of the sea,

one finger pointing between you and him
Vernon Small's Verse
Jinhua's "One Finger"

Foghorn through fog and arugula.
Two sharp clangs meaning,
Next. Bow and I go in.
always fails here. Or meaning, points,
but fails where it means.
Sturmer's Verse
Now, what about that finger,
the one that points
the one that presses buttons
and scratches earlobes?
Transcending the hand
it travels to the moon.
Kraaark -- the cry of a heron
cuts across the lake.
Hotetsu's Verse
A great matter weighing on me,
I traveled a thousand kilometers
to see old Jinhua, get his answer.
It took two months.
I lost 10 kilograms.

I arrive in the morning.
A monk meets me at the gate.
I must see Jinhua.
Wait here.
Before he goes he mentions
The master answers every question
By raising one finger.

I sit down on a stone.
The sun passes its zenith.
Just one finger, for all my troubles?
One finger for my life to make sense?
Which finger?

The index finger?
Pointing? Saying one?
The middle finger?
The thumb?
Up? Down? Out like a hitchhiker?
   Could old Jinhua want a ride?
What if he raises his pinky?
Or his fourth finger
   to show me a ring
   of power and commitment?
What if he grabs my hand and holds up one
   of my fingers?
Or what if the old man carries a severed finger in a pouch,
   taking it out when asked a question,
   even as it decayed and stank and was finally
   three phalanges rattling in his cupped hand?

In the cool evening I rise,
Walk back down the mountain.
Perhaps I'll make better time on the way home.


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