Book of Serenity 41

Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #41
Luopu at His Death Bed

  • LUOPU Yuanan (Rakuho Genan, Koko Sonsho, 834-98, 12th gen), disciple of Jiashan
  • A head monk (otherwise unidentified)
  • Yancong, a senior monk
  • An unidentified monk
Wansong's Preface (Sato)
Sometimes one smites oneself – beyond words is the suffering because of one’s sincerity;
Sometimes misfortune arises, people being devoid of comprehension.
At the deathbed one condescends and retails cheaply;
At the very end one is most polite.
Tears welling out of painful guts, it is impossible to hide any more.
Now, is there anyone who has cold eyes?
Case (Sato)
When he was about to die, Luopu addressed his assembly and said, “I have one matter to ask you about.[1]
If you say, 'It is this,' you are putting another head on your own.[2]
If you say, 'It isn't this,' you are looking for life by cutting off your head.”[3]
The head monk said, “'The green mountain always lifts up its legs. You don't need to carry a lantern in the daylight.'"[4]
Luopu said, “What occasion is this to utter such a saying?”[5]
A senior monk named Yancong stepped forward and said, “Apart from these two ways, I beg you, Master, not to ask.”[6]
Luopu said, “That's not enough. Say some more.”[7]
Yancong said, “I cannot say it fully.”[8]
Luopu said, “I don't care whether or not you can say it fully.”[9]
Yancong said, “I feel just like ‘an attendant who has nothing to respond to his master’.”[10]
That evening, Luopu called Yancong to him and said, “Your response today had something quite reasonable.[11]
You have to realize what our late master[12] said, 'There are no dharmas before the eyes; the consciousness is before the eyes.[13]
It is not the Dharma before the eyes; It cannot be reached by eyes and ears.'[14]
Which phrase is the guest? Which phrase is the host? If you can sort them out, I will transmit the bowl and robe to you.”[15]
Yancong said, “I don't understand.”[16]
Luopu said, “You must understand.”
Yancong said, “I really don't understand.”[17]
Luopu shouted and said, “Miserable, miserable!”[18]
[Another] monk asked, “What would you like to say, Master?”[19]
Luopu said, “The boat of compassion is not to be rowed[20] over pure waves; it’s wasted labor releasing wooden geese down the precipitous strait.[21]
[2] For "If you say, 'It is this,'..." Cleary gives, "If this is so,..."; Wick gives, "If you approve this,..."
[3] For "If you say, 'It isn't this,'..." Cleary gives, "If it's not so,..."; Wick gives, "If you disapprove this,..."
[4] The phrase comes from Luopu himself: “Once a monk asked Luopu, ‘What is the mysterious thing about the practice?’ Luopu said, ‘The green mountain always lifts up its legs; you don’t remove the wheels in the daylight.’”
[10] Or: "Being your attendant, Osho, it's hard for me to reply" (Wick); "I have no attendant to answer the teacher" (Cleary). Sato's note: An idiomatic expression meaning, “I can't describe it in words.”
[12] Probably Jiashan, possibly Linji.
[13] Or: "Before the eyes no Dharma. Mind is before the eyes" (Wick); "Before the eyes these are no things -- that meaning is before the eyes" (Cleary).
[14] Or: "This: It's not Dharma before the eyes. It's something that ear and eye cannot reach" (Wick); "That is not something before the eyes, not in reach of the ears and eyes" (Cleary).
[20] “To row a boat of compassion” is an expression of the teaching activities of a Zen master.
[21] Or: "In the rapids of the steep ravine one toils in vain to release the wooden goose" (Wick); "over precipitous straits it is wasted effort to set out a wooden goose" (Cleary). Sato's note: It was a custom that the boat rushing down the stream through a gorge released pieces of wood ahead as a warning so that a possible crash with the boat coming upstream could be avoided. These wooden chips were called “wooden geese.”

Wansong's Interjections (Cleary)
[1] He's still talking military strategy.
[2] This way won't do.
[3] Not this way won't do either.
[4] If it's spoken clearly, it's all the more difficult to get out.
[5] He's lost his money and incurred punishment
[6] Easy to open is the mouth of end and beginning; hard to maintain is the heart of the dead of winter.
[7] Poems must be recited twice to see their worth.
[8] Not letting people see it makes it all the more charming.
[9] Letting a bottomless one come, he can't help not stopping.
[10] The shadowing grass is around him.
[11] He just practices sticking it on his head.
[13] If you cut down the cassia tree on the moon, the pure light must be even more.
[14] When the moon sets, come to see me.
[15] Holding a stick, he calls the dog.
[16] He's going to make a high mountain.
[17] He doesn't bring a single load of earth.
[18] He cheats ordinary people.
[19] Where the torch was lost, greasy char is found.
[21] Flaunting skill, he becomes clumsy.
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick, italics Cleary)
With clouds as bait, and moon as hook, he fishes in pure water.
   The bait is clouds, the hook the moon, fishing in the clear harbor:
Burdened with years solitary and hard, and no fish yet.
   Old in years, alone at heart, he hasn't got a fish yet.
After the tune "Riso" dies away,
   One song "leaving the clamor," coming on back:[22]
on the river Bakira, a lone man awakens.
   On the Milo river, the only sober man.[23]
[22] Or: "After returning [to the common world, completing] the poem 'Forsaking the Clamor'" (Sato). Sato's note: "Forsaking the clamor" is a poem which Qu Yuan (ca. 340-278 CE; cf. verse to BOS12) composed after he was dismissed from his royal office through a slander and returned to the common world. In despair Qu Yuan eventually committed suicide in the Bekira River.
[23] Here in the verse, Luopu is depicted with the image of Qu Yuan.

Wansong's Comment (Cleary)
When Luopu was about to die, he was too kind. The head monk bared his heart entirely, but was blamed for being untimely; Yancong didn't move his lips, but Luopu allowed as he should understand. Luopu could only sift and strain over and over -- what a pity, just to sink into oblivion. Kepin was willingly fined the price of congee; the blind donkey purposely destroyed the eye of the true teaching.
Xuanjiao's Comment (Wansong, per Cleary)
Tell me, did elder Yancong really not understand? Or did he fear that the bowl would defile him?
Related Tale (Wansong, per Cleary)
Luopu once instructed the group, "You must directly realize the source outside of the teachings; don't grasp principle within words."
A monk asked, "What is practice of the inconceivable like?"
Luopu said, "The green mountain is always moving its feet; the bright sun doesn't shift its orb."
Wick's Comment
Even as he is about to die, Luopu is still trying to help his students come to realization. My own teacher was the same way: There wasn't a single moment when he wasn't trying to draw something out from his students, there wasn't a time when he wasn't showing it.
To approve or affirm anything -- your practice, your understanding, your awareness -- is adding something extra, like a useless appendage. If you have two heads you become a side-show freak. But disapproving, denying it, is cutting off your own head, negating reality. What would you say?
[4] A poetical reply that basically means that morning until night, we do what we do, and that's the functioning of our true self. He says Luopu is using a flashlight to find his way in broad daylight.
[5] Luopu scolds the head monk for not being appropriate to the situation -- i.e., Luopu on his deathbed. It's like somebody coming to you and saying that her parents just died, and you say, "Life and death are empty!"
[13] Everything is empty, yet this mind manifests in all kinds of shapes and forms.
[14] Since it's not before your eyes, it's something that ear and eye cannot reach, so what is it? What is it that hears? What is it that sees?
[15] Guest and host designate the relative and the absolute, self and other.
[21] Luopu is telling Yancong that he'll have to do it himself. "Don't hold onto the wooden goose. Let go." No one is going to do it for you. You're the wooden goose. Follow the flow through the ravine. Do it yourself.
Luopu threw out the line, but he didn't reel in Yancong. Luopu had eleven successors -- but Yancong wasn't one of them.
Background Story (Yamada)
Context for Jiashan's words, to which Luopu refers:
Jiashan set out to meet Chuanzi ("The Boatman," 10th gen.), the master whose dharma he inherited.
Chuanzi asked him, “In what temple do you live?”
Jiashan said, “I do not live in a temple. If I lived in it, it is not like IT.”
“What is it not like?” Chuanzi wanted to know.
Jiashan said, "There are no dharmas before the eyes; the consciousness is before the eyes. IT is not the Dharma before the eyes.”
But Chuanzi was not satisfied and pressed him further: “Where did you learn those words?”
Jiashan said, “IT cannot be reached by eyes and ears.”
Yamada's Comment
[2] Remember, these are Luopu's final words. “IT” is our true self, our essential nature. But if you refer to it like that, it’s like putting another head on your own head, because you descend into dualisms. It’s like having two heads. Then there is subject and object. There is the one who sees and the one seen. But these are actually one. It’s not a matter of making the “two heads” one through your practice. It’s one from the very start. It’s just that you mistakenly believe they are two. To think that there are two different things is a form of illness, the illness by which something that is intrinsically one is seen as dualistic. If you think in terms of THIS or THAT, it’s already two: the one seeing and the thing seen.
[3] If you try now to put it negatively, it’s like cutting off your own head. And then you look frantically for life, in other words, you seek desperately for another head. At any rate, it won’t do to try to stamp out the world of oneness.
[4] The green mountain does not move, but here he says that the green mountain always lifts up its legs, is always walking. This is pointing to our own essential nature. Although the content is empty, it is always walking. Even Dôgen Zenji says the same thing: Green mountain is always walking. The empty guy is walking. Although he continues to walk from morning to night, there is a world in which he does not take a single step. You don’t need to carry a lantern in the daylight. The true fact is completely clear. There’s certainly no need to light a lantern and go looking for it.
[5] Luopu says, “Here I am about to depart for the next world. This is no time to be repeating such hollow phrases and insolent words!” Words like “green mountain is always walking” might be all well and good, but it’s no help if it’s just some concept. What’s gotten into your head to jabber about such matters when I’m about to depart for the next world?
[6] The head monk failed the test, so to speak, so now the senior monk Yancong steps forward. What are the “two ways”? You can see them as “yes”
and “no.” If you say it’s this, that’s wrong. If you say it’s not this, that’s also wrong.
[10] Yancong seems to say that he is no longer worthy to act as his attendant. He means that, although he would like to say it, he finds it difficult to do. Such a phrase is used to express a situation in which you might know it, but cannot find the words to express it.
[14] These are the words of Jiashan (805-881), the "late master." “Dharmas” (hô) means all things in the phenomenal world. “Consciousness” (i) means the mind (kokoro). This is quite an interesting expression. He is talking about there not being a single thing before your eyes. Then he
says, “the consciousness is before the eyes.” In other words, there are no things before the eyes; there is mind (kokoro) before the eyes. “IT” means “that thing,” a reference to your true self. IT is not something that can be reached by eyes and ears. The essential world cannot be grasped with our senses, it cannot be seen or heard.
[15] The guest is the objective world; the host is the subjective world.
[18] Luopu must have felt very sad.
[21] Luopu is saying in effect that he has now given up trying to teach the dharma or lead others. Although he made all sorts of efforts, it was all in vain. The “boat of compassion” on the waves is said in the sense of going out on the lake in a boat to catch a wonderful fish. But if the boat is “not rowed,” it means that he has given up trying to catch such a fish. Although he had plied the boat over the waters of the lake, clear like a mirror, he has now given up trying to go out in that boat. "Wooden geese" are for checking whether a boat is coming from the other direction. Although all these precautions and steps were taken, it availed him naught. Although on one hand he is bewailing the lack of a dharma successor, from the essential viewpoint, there is no such need. The fact that “all beings are intrinsically Buddha” lies to the background of his statement. This is how Yasutani Roshi views the koan. That’s certainly a possibility. However, I can’t help feeling that Luopu's words express his despair here, at the end of his life, on failing to produce any dharma successors. Thus, the words in the Instruction (“tears welling out of painful guts”) are very fitting to describe this scene.
Jiko Linda Cutts's Verse
Luopu About to Die

Green hills sprinkled with snow
Romping quietly, joyfully
breathing the late sunshine
Not so!
Is so!
Don't ask!
All alone the eyes of compassion
do not see eyes of compassion

I really don't understand
Miserable, Miserable
Things teach best
when they are dying
Sturmer's Verse
The Master has made his exit.
It's a rough, tough,
unsophisticated old world.
The demons can be charmed
only for so long. And then?
Once more into the rapids
with a heavy pile of clouds
in the back of the canoe.
Hotetsu's Verse
Do not tell one dying
That mountains never stop walking.
Tending to what can be tended to
Neither affirms nor denies.
When the deathly ill are before you,
There are no dharmas,
Only a puke bucket or bedpan to empty,
A cup to hold up to the lips,
A facial tissue, or a prayer,
To offer.

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