Blue Cliff Record 5

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #5
Xuefeng's "A Grain of Rice"

  • XUEFENG Yicun (Seppo Gison, 822-908, 12th gen)
Yuanwu's Preface (Sato)
Whosoever may sustain the principle of our school must be a person of noble and excellent spirit.
Only those who are able to kill someone without blinking their eyes can become buddhas right where they stand. Hence you illuminate and act simultaneously, you hold fast and let go at the same time.
Essence and phenomena are not two; expedients and reality are equally employed.
[Yet] you descend one grade, and adopt a secondary method.
If you cut off all complications on the spot, late-comers and beginners can hardly abide in the port.
Yesterday was this way, it could not be avoided; today is also this way, the transgressions fill up the heavens.
If it is a clear-eyed person, however, he or she cannot be fooled even a bit.
Otherwise, you are sure to put yourself in the tiger's mouth and lose your life.
I will cite an example, look!
Case (Sekida)
Xuefeng addressed the assembly and said,[1]
"All the great world, if I pick it up with my fingertips, is found to be like a grain of rice.[2]
I throw it in front of your face,[3]
but you do not see it.[4]
Beat the drum, telling the monks to come out to work, and search for it."[5]
Yuanwu's Interjections
[1] One blind man leading a crowd of blind men. It's not beyond him.
[2] What technique is this? I myself have never sported devil eyes.
[3] I'm afriad it can't be thrown down. What skill do you have?
[4] Xuefeng relies on his power to deceive people. Take what's coming to you and get out!
[5] Blind! The beat of the drum is for the three armies.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida; italics Cleary)
The ox-head disappearing, the horse-head appears;
   Ox head vanishes, horse head comes back;
No dust on the mirror of the Patriarch Huineng
   In the mirror of Zen, no dust at all.
You beat the drum and search for it in vain.
   He beats the drum to have you look, but you don't see;
For whom do the spring flowers bloom.
   When spring arrives, for whom do the flowers bloom?
Related Xuefeng Tales (Yuanwu)
Changqing asked Yunmen, "When Xuefeng spoke like this, was there any place where he wasn't able to appear?'
Yunmen answered, "There is."
Changqing asked, "How so?"
Yunmen said, "One can't always be making wild fox spirit interpretations."

When Xuefeng was a young monk he went to Dongshan where he served as the rice steward.
One day Dongshan asked Xuefeng, "What are you doing?"
Xuefeng said, "Cleaning rice."
Dongshan asked “Are you washing the grit to get rid of the rice, or are you washing the rice to get rid of the grit?"
Xuefeng said, "Grit and rice are both removed at once."
Dongshan said, "What will everybody eat?"
Xuefeng then overturned the basin.
Dongshan said, "Your affinity lies with Deshan," and he directed Xuefeng to go see him.

As soon as he got there, Xuefeng asked, "Does this student have any share in this matter handed down from antiquity as the fundamental vehicle?"
Deshan struck him a blow and said, "What are you saying?"
Because of this, Xuefeng had an insight.

Later Xuefeng and Yantou were traveling together and were snowed in on Tortoise Mountain (in Hunan).
Xuefeng said, "When Deshan hit me, it was like the bottom falling out of a bucket."
Yantou shouted and said, "Haven't you heard it said that what comes in through the gate isn't the family treasure? You must let it flow out from your own breast to cover heaven and earth; then you'll have some small portion of realization."
Suddenly, Xuefeng was greatly enlightened. He bowed and said to Yantou, "Elder brother, today on Tortoise Mountain I have finally attained the Path."
Yunfeng's Comment (Yuanwu)
Compared to above, not enough; compared to below, too much. I am making up more complications for you. Do you see Xuefeng? Where the King's rule is a little more strict, it's not permitted to plunder the open markets.
Zhe of Dagui's Comment (Yuanwu)
I'll add more mud to dirt for you. Look! Look! Xuefeng has defecated right in front of you all. Come now, why don't you even recognize the smell of shit?
Yuanwu's Comment
"Pick up the whole great earth in your fingers, and it's as big as a grain of rice" -- tell me, at this juncture, can you figure it out by means of intellectual discrimination? Here you must smash through the net, at once abandon gain and loss, affirmation and negation, to be completely free and at ease; you naturally pass through his snare, and then you will see what he's doing. Tell me, where is Xuefeng's meaning? People often make up intellectual interpretations and say, "Mind is the master of myriad things; the whole great earth is all at once in my hand." Fortunately, this has no connection. Here you must be a true and genuine fellow who penetrates the bone through to the marrow, and sees all the way through as soon as he hears it brought up, yet without falling into emotional considerations or conceptual thinking. If you are a genuine foot-traveling patchrobed monk, you will see that in acting this way, Xuefeng was already indulging to help others.
Hakuin's Comment
This is a choice selection from the record of Xuefeng's sayings. Xuefeng was beyond even Deshan, and this saying was enough to fluster even his great disciples like Baofu, Changqing, and Yunmen. The level of Xuefeng's school was exceptional. "Toss it in front of you" -- Toss what? "Muster everyone to look" -- Get together as if you were looking for a lost child.
Tenkei's Comment
Pay attention to what skill is used to pick up the world. When right and wrong, gain and loss, and all discriminatory thinking is stopped, then the whole universe is not even big enough to pick up with three fingers; it's the size of a grain of rice. To assess this using emotional consciousness is to take a small view, like looking at something inside a tea bag. Get together and inquire, he says, without tipping his hand, as if there were actually something there. This koan is often misinterpreted to represent the merging of the great and the small, or the one and the many. That is very wrong.
Yamada's Comment
When you pick up "the whole great earth," which means the entire universe, it is the same size as a grain of rice. This is not an idea or thought, but a presentation of the true thing itself. When you see the essential world, you know that there is no size. The maximum is the same as the minimum – a frequent theme in Zen. Jinhua raised a finger in answer to any question; the raising of the finger is the whole universe. Our essential nature is zero and infinite at the same time. You can neither see nor grasp it with your five senses. Yet it is infinite; it has limitless qualities. The quest for this world is the aim of Zen. The best approach to this world is through our own mind, the entrance to the world of zero-infinity, of essence or equality. That is why Buddhism always starts with mind. Your mind is zero, yet this completely formless mind does see, hear, stand up, sit down, cry, laugh, think. It is the motive power for all activity. Consequently, it has infinite abilities. Once we come to see that there is the world of the infinite-absolute, we also see that everything -- every phenomenal object or event -- is the entire universe itself. "A grain of rice" is one such phenomenal object. If you pick up the entire universe, it certainly is this grain of rice. You throw it down before you. Then you don't recognize anything. The grain of rice, which has been thrown away before you, has completely disappeared. If you can't find it at all, then: beat the drums, gather all people and look for the grain of rice, the whole universe! What a great sermon Xuefeng is making!
Barragato's Comment
The entire universe contained on the tip of a follicle of hair. The entirety of the moon contained in every drop of water. And there is the merging of the one and the many and the great and the small in this koan. There is that within us which is the Inner Light, The Unknown, the Unborn, which is BuddhaNature, the Inner Christ, the Buddha, the Dharma. It is that which knows. That which understands. That which loves. That which feels the pain and suffering of others. That which reaches out to touch and heal. That which informs our being. That which informs the entire universe. That we are capable of love of compassion of simply being. It is there. Here. Within. It is the Dharma. But being the fatheads that we are we sometimes lose it. And one of the ways we lose it is crazy. We simply do not believe in ourselves. We do not believe that we have it. We think we’re so stupid and insignificant that nothing so wonderful can possibly be here within us. We get depressed. We think we’re nothing. So we throw it away and lose sight of it. We throw away the riceseed of the universe. Then realizing what’s happened we panic. We frantically look for it. We realize the craziness of what we have done and then we should beat the drum and get all the help we can to find our lost treasure. Beat the drum, call 911, go to the emergency rooms of the hospitals of our hearts, appeal to all our friends in the sangha, tackle and plead with our teachers, go out into the woods to try get again in touch with our inner beings. Put our kayaks into a quiet lake and paddle away in silence and peace. Do anything everything whatever we can think of to regain our lost treasure. Sit hard at our zazen. Make the search the koan focus point of our meditation. Put everything into it. That’s what I find in this wonderful koan. And it brings me peace. Even when I look around and see that I have succeeded in being nobody. If you want bigness and action and meaning and significance and brocade and great followings and relevance and social engagement you can easily find it. But not in Zen. In true Zen nothing happens. Nobody reigns. It is the place where everything is small. And everybody counts. And everybody has that wonderful grainseed of rice.
R.D.M. Shaw's Comment
The infinite universe is a tiny object. And, indeed, this immense universe is verily thrown down before our very eyes, clear for us to see. Nevertheless, to the ordinary man of the world it is as unrecognizable as is the proverbial black lacquer pail. You, who are here, would, no doubt, like to see this infinite thing which yet is so infinitesimal too. Well, if so, beat the handdrum, as you do to call the temple staff for their daily chores, and use all your combined efforts to search out this matter.
Hoffmann's Answer
The pupil, as if present in a high place, pretends to survey many peaks at a glance.
Quote: "The states of Go and So extend toward the southeast. /Heaven and earth, day and night are all floating on the water"
Or: "The the west as far as Taiwan, to the east as far as the Kurile Islands in Saghalien." (Thus the pupil demonstrates the phrase from the Diamond Sutra, "The world is non-world; upon this it is named world.")
COMMENT: This is on the same theme as "Even though it is not a world, it is called a world" (Miscellaneous Koans), and "Bind up space with a rope" (Misellaneous Koans). Xuefeng, with a touch of humor, drives the "mu" ("nothing," "void") aspect of the world ad absurdum.
Both the first answer with the attached quote and the alternative answer put the emphasis on "u" ("being," "matter"). Whatever the "ultimate truth" of the world may be, we are bound to live its common sense truth of "things are just what they are."
Wolinsky's Verse
Clear Mirror - No Mirror: One Shot

As the emptiness its reflection of consciousness
seems smaller then a grain of sand
as the absolute neither are

Without right and wrong
That and this are not separate
No intervals
One shot
One straight shot
Form-Emptiness and the Essential appear

“One Hand”

Discard all as not this, not this
The still mind is not it
Stillness illusions
The mirror is essentially without emptiness or

That and this are not separate
No intervals
One shot
One straight shot
Form-Emptiness and the Essential appear

“One Hand”
Rothenberg's Verse
The Grain of Rice

Grab this great earth with all of your fingers:
it's no bigger than one grain of rice.
Let the whole thing slip easily out of your grip
then strike the drum and you can't find the sound.

I can't let it go if I don't know how.
So smash the mirror before you will meet me.
Come see me onlly when your reflection is gone.

Englightenment is nothing like a tree.
The mind or the mirror is not what it stands on --
polish, shine as much as you want,
you will find no roots.

If nothing is clear when all is swept clean,
then why wipe the dust away?
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
Hotetsu's Verse
I love the units, their countability,
Three seconds.
Five centimeters, squared or cubed.
Two decades.
Seven days.
One parsec.
Three millennia.
Five minutes.
Twenty kilometers.
Fourteen billion years.
So reassuring and practical this, the mind's mirror.
Working or testifying,
The measure must be taken.

I remember, too, that
Huineng was right to scold Shenxiu:
"The mind is no mirror."
It is made for unity as well as units:
For uncountable time with its two names,
   Now and Eternity --
For vastness and tininess indistinguishable.
Caverns measureless are its home.

I have only this to suggest:
Gather wise friends.

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