Gateless Gate 3

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #3
Jinhua's One Finger (extended version)

  • JINHUA Juzhi (Kinka Gutei, b. 785?, 11th gen), disciple of Hangzhou
  • HANGZHOU Tianlong (Kosho Tenryu, 748-807, 10th gen)
  • Date guess: ca. 871
Case (Sato)
Whatever he was asked [about the Way of Buddha], Master Jinhua[1] simply stuck up his finger.
He had a boy attendant whom a visitor asked, “What kind of teaching does your master give?”[2]
The boy held up one finger too.
Hearing of this, Jinhua cut off the boy's finger with a knife.
As the boy ran away, screaming with pain, Jinhua called to him.
When the boy turned his head, Jinhua stuck up one finger.[3]
The boy was suddenly enlightened.[4]
When Jinhua was about to die, he said to the assembled monks, “I received this one-finger Zen from Hangzho16. I've used it all my life, but have not exhausted it.”
Having said this, he entered nirvana.[5]
[1] Hinton: Master Million-Million.
[2] Aitken: "asked what his master preached."
Hinton: "What is the dharma-essence your master teaches?"
Shibayama: "What is the Zen your master is teaching?"
[3] Some versions add here: "Reflexively the boy responded by attempting to raise his own (cut off) finger." (Koro Kaisan)
[4] Cleary: Suddenly the boy attained enlightenment.
Gu: The boy was abruptly, suddenly awakened.
Hinton: Suddenly, the boy was awakened.
Low: The boy came suddenly to awakening.
[5] Aitken: With this he entered into his eternal rest.
Cleary: So saying, he passed away.
Gu: As his words ended, he died.
Hinton: When Million-Million was about to follow the vanishing way of things, he said to the sangha: "I received this one-finger Chan from Heaven-Dragon Mountain. I used it for an entire lifetime and never exhausted it." With those words, he passed into extinction.
Low: [leaves out the last sentence]
Sekida: When he had finished saying this, he entered into eternal Nirvana.
Senzaki: Then he passed away.
Shibayama: When he had finished saying this, he died.

Wumen's Comment (Sato, Yamada)
The enlightenment of Jinhua and the boy have nothing to do with the tip of a finger. If you realize this, Hangzhou, Jinhua, the boy, and you yourself are all run through with one skewer.
Wumen's Verse (Sato)
Old Hangzhou made a fool of Jinhua,
Who cut the boy with a sharp blade.[6]
The mountain deity Juling raised his hand, and lo, without effort,
Great Mount Hua with its many ridges was torn in two.[7]
[6] Aitken: Hangzhou made a fool of old Jinhua who cut the boy with a sharp blade,
Cleary: Jinhua makes a dunce of old Hangzhou; The sharp blade held up alone tests the little boy.
Gu: Jinhua made a fool of old Hangzhou. Holding up the sharp blade alone to test the boy.
Hinton: Dumbly wielding a sharp blade to reveal a small child, Million-Million dulled old Heaven-Dragon's instrument.
Low: Jinhua made a fool of old Hangzhou, With a sharp knife he freed the boy.
Sekida: Jinhua made a fool of old Hanzhou, Emancipating the boy with a single slice.
Senzaki: Jinhua cheapens Hangzhou's teaching, Emancipating the boy with a knife.
Shibayama: Jinhua made a fool of old Hanzhou, With a sharp knife he chastised the boy."
[7] Aitken: just as the deity Juling raised his hand, and Huashan, with its many ridges, split into two.
Cleary: The great spirit lifted its hands, without much ado, And split apart the millions of layers of Flower Mountain.
Gu: Like the Great Spirit Juling who lifts his hand effortlessly And splits apart the great ridges of Mount Hua.
Hinton: In one handstroke, the river god split its course through Flourish Mountain's ten thousand thousand high ridges.
Low: Juling raised his hand and, with no effort, The great ridge of Mount Hua was split in two!
Sekida: Just as Juling cleaved Mount Hua To let the Yellow River run through.
Senzaki: Compared to the Chinese god who divided a mountain with one hand, Old Jinhua is a poor imitator.
Sibayama: Juling raised his hand with no effort, And lo! the great ridge of Mount Hua was split in two!

Aitken's Comment
Jinhua spent some years in solitary practice before being visited by the nun, Jissai, and then, Hangzhou. Jinhua's mistake was in supposing that lots of zazen is enough in itself. It is not. Even a small amount of zazen can be bondage if it is a device for avoiding the world. It is in engagment that we find our true natur -- the true nature of the universe. Some Zen students, who have come from other religious paths, listen for the "inner voice." This can be a great delusion. Lots of people are in prison or in asymums because they made a practice of listening to their inner voice. Jinhua's finger is much more reliable.
Other teachers are well known for their distinctive actions. Luzu [9th gen], a brother of Baizhang and Nanquan in the Dharma, was famous for just turning around and facing the wall when a student came to him for instruction. Bankei Yotaku [1622-1693] is famous for uttering the single word "unborn." But few teachers, it seems, were as singular in their method as Jinhua. But be careful. Don't be casual about that one finger. Not only your own finger, but your life, your vitality, your hopes, your inner riches -- all will be dissipated by superficial imitation. You must express Jinhua's mind clearly. What do you do? What do you say? Hangzhou's finger and then Jinhua's finger reveal the marvelous extent of the world and ourselves. Jinhua's life reveals the importance of accepting the world at the outset of practice. My way cannot be my exclusive way. It is the Dao of the universe or it is vain.
Cleary's Comment
When Zen master Jinhua would raise a finger, he was simply pointing, both symbolically and directly, to the one true reality that is beyond personal conceptions and judgments. Jinhua's finger signals his devotion to the practice of meditation through the use of a spell [dharani]. The original meaning of "spell" in this sense in English is to render stationary, to fix or train on one point. Thus a spell is a concentration formula repeated to focus the mind steadily. In the figure of the boy seemingly punished for imitating master Jinhua is the principle that ignorant imitation, or repetition of superficial forms received at second hand, is not the Way to direct experience of reality. Jinhua was not imitating his own teacher, who did not raise a finger to every question. Jinhua had been blasted to kingdom come by his teacher's spontaneous gesture, and spent the rest of his life just pointing to suchness. Had the boy absorbed the master's message, he would have been able to point to suchness another way. A popular Zen meditation theme says, "All things return to One; where does the One return?" This is the way to work on the koan of Jinhua's finger.
Yuanwu's Verse (Cleary)
How could it be easy to reply
To the casual conditions of question and answer?
It's hard to be really stylish if you have no money.
There's something in his heart, but he cannot say it;
In his hurry he just holds up a finger.
Background Tale: Nun Shiju (Gu)
One day when Jinhua was sitting right in the middle of his hut, a nun whose name was Shiji came bargin in without introduing herself, in her thatched straw hat and carrying her other belongings. (Shi means "actual" or "true"; ji means "occasion" or "time.") Shiji circled around him three times, then stopped right in front of him. She said, "If you can say something, I will take off my hat." She meant, "Eitehr you've got it or you don't. If you've got it, I'll study with you. If you don't, I'll leave. Say something!" Jinhua was dumbfounded. He did not know what to say. She circumambulated again three times. Afterward, she repeated what she had said. He just looked at her speechless and felt great shame. The nun left. He chased after her and said, "It's getting late. At least stay overnight." She turned around and said, "You've got it or you don't! Say something!" But he couldn't, and he felt even worse. She left, and he started to pack up. He thought, "I need a teacher. I can't go on living like this." As he was packing a mountain spirit appeared to him and said, "Don't bother. In a few days there will be a Chan master visiting here. Get ahold of him instead of wandering about, not knowing where you're going, looking for teachers. Just stay put." A few days later, Chan master Hangzhou came by. Jinhua recognized him and prostrated. He told Hangzhou about the episode with the Nun Shiji, concluding, "I couldn't say a word to the nun; what is the buddhadharma, what is it, what is it?" Master Hangzhou just raised his finger. Jinhua became completely awakened.
Gu's Comment
If I were to comment bluntly about this case, I would say, IAG -- It's All Good. The boy in the story is an attendant, an acolyte, ready to become a novice monk, probably Master Jinhua's attendant. The issue here is about being ripe to buddhadharma. If you are ripe, everything is a shiji, or "true occasion" for realization. Without that process of practice -- being able to have your heart-mind at peace, allowing IAG ("It's All Good") to come alive inside you -- a person can raise a finger or a big toe, give a shout or a slap, but nothing will happen.
You lack nothing. From the perspective of Chan, you already have peace. The practice is to recognize that and not create problems where there are none. IAG.
Low's Comment
"Is there a life after death?" Jinhua raises a finger. "Is there a meaning to my life?" Jinhua raises a finger. "Am I all alone in a world that cares nothing for me?" Jinhua raises a finger. Always the same response. Some people say that Jinhua's finger stands for one mind, a symbol for unity. This was the boy's mistake. In Zen one is admonished not to confuse the finger with the moon to which it points. But then, what does the moon point to? Fayen was wasked, "What is the moon?" and he replied, "The finger." He was then asked, "What is the finger?" and he replied, "the moon." Both Jinhua and his attendant in their own way exhausted all the resources of their being. Both were brought to the abyss of their own true nature, and it was only then each could plunge into renewed life by the raising of a finger. Someone observed "If you see into a speck of dust, you see into the whole universe." After the boy's finger was cut off, how would he then reply to a question? it is like working on mu. Before the thought of mu arises, what is mu?
Sekida's Comment
Hakuin asked the meaning of the "the voice of one hand." Bankei advocated "unborn" and "unborn" alone. Jinhua simply raised his finger on every occasion. Each of these demonstrations of the truth was the same; and all were, at the same time, different. Jinhua's was the samadhi of the intuitive first nen; Bankei's the samadhi of the intuitive third nen; Hakuin's a combination of both. True samadhi controls not only momentary attention but also the whole stream of consciousness: that is, the trend of the mind. In samadhi also, each and every moment is independent. Jinhua's samadhi was a demonstration of this. Although he always raised his finger, he never raised the same finger. He was always new.
"Did not exhaust it." One cannot exhaust Dharma treasure. It is never ending.
Senzaki's Comment
Although the Chinese government's persecution [under Emperor Wuzong, reigned 840-46] resulted in the worst circumstances for the Buddhist establishment in its history in China, it created the opportunity for good monks and nuns to set out on pilgrimages. Jinhua, too, caught his chance at this time of oppression. He sensed keenly that the opportunity for realization is rare and noble. This was the reason why, in our present story, he cut off the boy's finger. An imitation of the teaching seems at first rather innocent, but if it is not nipped in the bud, it will grow into the ugly weed of religious complacency, or into the troublesome weed of hypocrisy. To open the gate of realization, one must block off one's road of conceptualization. At the moment that Jinhua called for the boy to stop -- and the boy turned his head toward Jinhua, and the master raised his finger -- there! With his road of thinking blocked, the boy could be enlightened. This koan not only teaches you to realize Zen for yourself, but also shows you how to open the minds of others and let them see the truth as clearly as daylight. The power of Zen that Jinhua received from Hangzhou was not merely the act of raising a finger; it was the means to enlighten others.
Shibayama's Comment
"What is the essence of Buddhism?" "What is Zhaozhou's 'Mu'?" "Bring out your mind and show it to me." "When your body is all decomposed, where do you go?" Whatever Jinhua was asked, he stuck up one finger. Throughout his life he gave no talks. What a hearty Master he was! The fact was, he could never put it in words even if he wished to do so. Or I might say he expressed it fully. One is all. There is nothing to add. True it may be, but tell me, "What is the finger?" Is there anybody who does not have a finger? Or Truth, or the Buddha Nature, or whatever you may call it? Pitiful indeed are those who are not aware of the foolishness of seeking after water while they are in the midst of it. Yet if you stick to the finger, you are thousands of miles away from the Truth. Jinhua was himself enlightened when Hangzhou held up a finger. What is important here is not the lifted finger, but the intensity of the inner struggle Jinhua went through. In Zen training one has to strive with soul and body to transcend his dualistic discriminating consciousness. One has to come to the ultimate extremity where any slightest touch may effect a great change in his personality, so fundamental as to be described by saying that the "the earth splits and the mountains collapse." If one starts asking what this one finger might mean and tries to find some significance in sticking up the finger, apart from the actual inner struggle Jinhua went through, he is a complete stranger to Zen. If I dare to explain it philosophically, one finger held up here is not a finger any longer; it is Jinhua himself, I-myself, the universe itself -- but if one clings to such an explanation, Zen is no longer there. [RE: cutting off the boy's finger:] That is, he cut off the boy's finger of imitation, which is no better than a corpse. In the extreme pain penetrating the universe, the boy grasped the Truth of One Finger. The boy, losing his finger, attained the true finger and eternal life. This Zen of One Finger is nothing but the Truth pervading the whole universe. The marvelous capability of Jinhua in cutting it off should certainly be admired. Although the physical body of Jinhua, a historical person, did die, his Zen is alive here now, in my finger and your finger, transcending space and time. The whole universe is a finger; a finger is the whole universe. It should then be ever new and alive, and its creative work can never be exhausted; it exists forever together with the universe itself.
Xuansha's Comment (Shibayama)
In the past, had I witnessed Jinhua sticking up one finger, I should certainly have wrenched it away!
Yamada's Comment
The point of this koan is just holding up one finger. What does it mean? In the Xinxin Ming ["Faith in Mind," attributed to Sengcan, d. 606], is a line: "One is everything. Everything is one." In the absolute world, the world of enlightenment, the logic of "One is everything, everything is one" reigns. When Hangzhou sticks up a finger, that one finger is the whole universe. When we stick up one finger, there is nothing but one finger in the whole universe. When you stand up, there is nothing but standing up in the whole universe. When Jinhua saw Hangzhou holding up one finger, he realized clearly that the one finger and the whole universe are one. There isn't anything else that remains. There is nothing outside it. That is enlightenment.
Hotetsu's Verse
Teachers do this,
Cut off parts of their students --
A finger, a toe, a nose,
A vanity, a limiting story, a jaded detachment --
Whatever: the cut hurts.
There's screaming and blood.
Some teachers offer bandages and prosthetic
Replacements that meet a purpose.
Others don't, but only watch
With silent eyes the dripping wound
To see what the excised part
Had been inhibiting,
Teacher and student alike
Surprised at what emerges,
In wonder of what it might be for.
Second illustration by Mark T. Morse

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