Book of Serenity 41

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

Wansong's Preface
Sometimes one is sincere and faithful, distressing oneself;
One’s suffering and pain is beyond words.
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?
When he was about to die, Luopu addressed his assembly and said, “I have one matter to ask you about. If you say, 'It is THIS,' you are putting another head on your own. If you say, 'It isn't this,' you are looking for life by cutting off your head.”
The head monk said, “'The green mountain always lifts up its legs. You don't need to carry a lantern in the daylight.'"[1]
Luopu said, “What occasion is this to utter such a saying?”
A senior monk named Yancong stepped forward and said, “Apart from these two ways, I beg you, Master, not to ask.”
Luopu said, “That's not enough. Say some more.”
Yancong said, “I cannot say it fully.”
Luopu said, “I don't care whether or not you can say it fully.”
Yancong said, “I feel just like ‘an attendant who has nothing to respond to his master’.”[2]
That evening, Luopu called Yancong to him and said, “Your response today had something quite reasonable. You have to realize what our late master[3] said, 'There are no dharmas before the eyes; the consciousness is before the eyes. It is not the Dharma before the eyes; it cannot be reached by eyes and ears.' 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.”
Yancong said, “I don't understand.”
Luopu said, “You must understand.”
Yancong said, “I really don't understand.”
Luopu shouted and said, “Miserable, miserable!”
[Another] monk asked, “What would you like to say, Master?”
Luopu said, “The boat of compassion is not to be rowed[4] over pure waves; it’s wasted labor releasing wooden geese down the precipitous strait.[5]

NOTES: [1] 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.’” [2] An idiomatic expression meaning, “I can't describe it in words.” [3] either Linji or Jiashan [4] “To row a boat of compassion” is an expression of the teaching activities of a Zen master. [5] 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.”
Hongzhi's Verse
With the clouds as bait, with the moon as a hook, one fishes in the pure water;
Old with age, solitary-hearted, one hasn’t caught a fish yet.
After returning [to the common world, completing] the poem “Forsaking the Clamor”:
[Lo,] the only sober one upon the Bekira River.

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