Gateless Gate 10

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #10
Qingshui the Poor

Personnel and Date
  • CAOSHAN Benji (Sozan Honjaku, 840-901, 12th gen), disciple of Dongshan
  • Qingshui (Seizei, n.d., 13th gen), disciple of Caoshan
Date guess: 891

A monk, Qingshui, asked Master Caoshan in all earnestness, “Qingshui is alone and poor. I beg you, Master, please help me to become prosperous.”[1]
Caoshan said, “Venerable Shui!”
“Yes, Master!” replied Qingshui.
Caoshan said, “You have already drunk three cups of fine Hakka wine from Qingyuan and still you say that you have not yet moistened your lips.”[2]
NOTE: "Venerable" here translates Acharya, an honorific title for a monk who leads disciples, correcting their manners and deeds. The original Chinese specifies wine of the House of Bai (Jap: Haku, hence "hakka," meaning "Haku family" or "family business of the Haku family") of the Qingyuan (Jap: Seigen) district -- wine-makers renowned for the excellence of their wine. Qingyuan (Seigen) is also the name of the 7th-generation teacher from whom Caoshan is a dharma descendant: Qingyuan (Seigen) → Shitou (Sekito) → Yaoshan (Yakusan) → Yunyan (Ungan) → Dongshan (Tozan) → Caoshan (Sozan). See BOS 5 (Qingyuan and the Price of Rice). So there is, perhaps, a Zen pun here. Further, "Bai" means "white" or "no color" -- and:
"'Color' and 'form' are the same ideograph in Chinese. So the 'wine of the House of Bai' can be read as the 'wine of the House of No Color and No Form.'" (Aitken, referencing Gempo Yamamoto)
[1] Aitken: I am Qingshui, solitary and destitute. Please give me alms.
Cleary: Qingshui is alone and poor -- please help out.
Guo Gu: I am poor and destitute. I beg you, Master, please relieve my distress.
Hinton: I am perfectly alone now, perfectly impoverished. I'm an alms-beggar here. Won't you please grant me the sustenance of your teaching?
Low: Qingshui is quite destitute. Will you give him food?
Sekida: Qingshui is utterly destitute. Will you give him support?
Senzaki: Qingshui is alone and poor. Will you give him support?
Shibayama: I am poor and destitute. I beg you, O Master, please help me and make me rich.

[2] Aitken: You have already drunk three cups of the finest wine in China, and still you say that you have not moistened your lips.
Cleary: You have already drunk three cups of the wine of the purists of Zen, yet you still say you haven't wet your lips.
Guo Gu: You have already drunk three bowls of our family Qingyuan's home-brewed wine, and yet you still say you haven't wet your lips!
Hinton: You've savored three cups of clear wine from our ancestral household of green-azure origins. And still you say you haven't even moistened your lips?
Low, Sekida: You have finished three cups of the finest wine in China and still you say you have not yet moistened your lips!
Senzaki: You have already finished three cups of the best wine in China. Why, then, do you say you have not even wet your lips?
Shibayama: Having tasted three cups of the best wine of Seigen, do you still say that your lips are not yet moistened?

Wumen's Commentary
Qingshui is obsequious in tone but what is his real intention? Caoshan has the penetrating eye and thoroughly discerns the coming monk. Be that as it may, just tell me, where and how has Venerable Qingshui drunk the wine?[3]
[3] Aitken: Qingshui is submissive in manner, but what is his real intention? Caoshan has the eye and thoroughly discerns what Qingshui means. Tell me, where and how has Qingshui drunk wine?
Cleary: Quinshui passed up the opportunity; what ws going on in his mind? Caoshan had eyes; he profoundly discerned the states of those who came to him. Even so, tell me, where did Qingshui drink wine?
Gu: Qingshui misses the occasion. What was he thinking? Caoshan with the eye (of enlightenment) profoundly discerns the potentials of those who come to learn. Nevertheless, tell me, where did Acharya Qingshui drink the wine?
Hinton: Lucid-Black at that moment in the unfurling loom of origins: who knows what he had in mind? And Twofold Mountain, his Buddha-deep eye whole, saw right through the loom's unfurling origins. Still, you have to ask: "Where was it Lucid-Black, great dharma-sage acharya, savored those three cups of wine?"
Low, Sekida: Qingshui pretended to retreat. What was his scheme? Caoshan had the eye of Buddha and saw through his opponent's motive. However, I want to ask you, at what point did Qingshui drink wine?
Senzaki: Qinshui overplayed his hand. Why was that so? Because Caoshan had eyes to see, and knew with whom he had to deal. Even so, I want to ask: At what point had Qingshui drunk the wine?
Shibayama: Qingshui assumed a condescending attitude. What is his intention? Caoshan has a penetrating eye and has seen through Qingshui's mind. Be that as it may, just tell me how the Venerable Qingshui could have drunk the wine.

Wumen's Verse
Poor like Hantan,
Of a spirit like Kôu,[4]
Though they cannot sustain themselves
They dare to compete with each other for wealth.[5]
NOTE: Fan Dan (Hantan) was a man in the era of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE); he lived in extreme poverty. Xiang Yu (Kôu) was a famous war hero (232-202 BCE), who rivaled with Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu, Jap: Ryûhô, r. 202-195 BCE), the founder of the Han Dynasty.

[4] Aitken: With the poverty of Fan Dan and the spirit of Xiang Yu
Cleary: Poor as the poorest, Brave as the bravest,
Guo Gu: Destitute like Fan Dan But with the spirit of Xiang Yu
Hinton: Regal in poverty, like a penniless imperial minister, ch'i-force like a ruthless general,
Low, Sekida: Poverty like Hantan's, Mind like Kou's;
Senzaki: The poorest man in China, The bravest man in China,
Shibayama: His poverty is like Hantan's, His spirit like that of Kou.

[5] Aitken: though he can hardly sustain himself, he dares to compete with the other for wealth.
Cleary: Though he had nothing to live on, He dared to joust with the rich.
Guo Gu: Though he has no way to earn a livelihood, He dares to contend with the richest of them [that is, Shi Chong].
Hinton: vast as sky -- he hasn't the least livelihood, and therefore dares contest all that richness.
Low, Sekida: With no means of livelihood, He dares to rival the richest.
Senzaki: Although he barely sustains himself, He wishes to rival the richest.
Shibayama: With no way of earning a livelihood He dares to compete with the richest of men.

Aitken's Comment
I am solitary and destitute -- won't you give me alms? A world of meaning lies within these words. "Everything is totally without meaning or purpose. The whole universe is nothing but a vast desert without a blade of grass or drop of water. There's no significance, no merit, no virtue in my life. I feel completely lost." Thus have students of all religions described their "dark night" experiences. This bleak state of spirit was called "accidie" by the early Christian teachers, a word that means "spiritual sloth" -- but "sloth" implies being lazy on purpose, and there is nothing intentional here. It is actually a very promising condition -- an essential phase of spiritual evolution.
Qingshui pressed on. He presents himself fully to Caoshan. "This is where I am. What should I do now?" Most commendable.
Caoshan, with marvelous directness, rises immediately to Qingshui's urgent request and calls out, Venerable Shui!
Foyin's Verse (Cleary)
Qingshui alone and poor -- his mind's too coarse:
Caoshan takes him along the road to the inn.
Three cups of the purists' lip-wetting wine;
Add a cup after intoxication, and all seems naught.
Huanshan's Verse (Cleary)
Coashan, used to using the Zen purists' wine,
Pours it out entirely in front of others.
| The intoxication topples Zen seekers all over the world;
Yet Your Revernece is still not aware.
Cleary's Comment
"Qingshui is alone and poor" means Quinshui has attained nirvana: "alone" symbolizes independence, "poverty" symbolizes freedom from attachments. He approaches Caoshan, a complete Zen master, because he knows this is not yet ultimate enlightenment.
In response, Caoshan calls to the seeker. Caoshan is calling to Life as it expresses itself through this individual.
When Qingshui spontaneously responds, "Yes?" Caoshan tells him that there he has his answer.
"You have already drunk three cups of the wine of the purists of Zen, yet you still say you haven't wet your lips." To not have wet his lips means Qingshui is clinging to the peace of individual nirvana, or "not being subject to causality," as if it were the ultimate goal. Qingshui is thus ignoring the unity and infinity of Life.
The "three cups of wine" represent absolute truth (nirvana), the relative world (samsara), and their union in the Middle Way.
T.S. Eliot's Description of the Spiritual State (Cleary)
A condition of utter simplicity
Costing not less than everything.
Nisargadatta, on Helping Others (Cleary)
There are no others to help. A rich man when he hands over his entire fortune to his family has not a coin to give a beggar.
Low's Comment
This koan is about the magic of the mind, the magic of the mind, the magic of beig present, the magic that makes of e ery day a good day. The poverty of Seizei is not ordinary poverty, but that of the poor in spirit who, Jesus said, are blessed "for they shall see God." Therefore Seizei was no ordinary monk, but, on the contrary, one who was deeply awakened. A Zen master snatches even the dried crust from the hands of a starving man because, as master Yunmen warns, "Even a good thing is not as good as no thing." Our first question is "What is Caoshan's poverty?" and to know this we must enter into it. We must be poor Qingshui. Then we must understand Caoshan's calling him and telling him that he has drunk of the finest wine in China. What is this wine?A monk, when he became awakened wrote: "In a moonlit night on a spring day, the croak of a frog pierces through the whole cosmos and turn it into a single family. To see into this is to see truly that every day is a good day."
Guo Gu's Comment
Qingshui, an accomplished practitioner, comes to question Caoshan. He essentially asks, "I have nothing left -- nothing to grasp, nothing to obtain -- and no attachments. What more is there to do?" This was a request for instruction and also a challenge.
After one has let go of everything, one must then let go of the notion of having let go and start living.
"You have already drunk three bowls of our family Qingyuan's home-brewed wine, and yet you still say you haven't wet your lips!" Having Qingyuan's wine means having already received the teaching of his lineage.
The monk responds to Caoshan's call but does not recognize his own response as the most natural function of the awakened mind. He dwells in "dead emptiness" -- that stagnant void of holding on to nonattachment -- the state of being "destitute."
Put yourself in this situation and ask, "How is it that I am already drinking the wine?" How is it?
There is something fundamentally liberating within you that naturally frees you from moment to moment. Yet you miss it and settle for more ideas and constructs.
Chan tells us that you lack nothing. But it is hard to have confidence in the thought that you lack nothing. See through the veil of the very mechanism and habits that drive you, that shape your opinions, discriminations, and experiences and the way you relate to the world. Don't mistake them for who you are. If you can understand who you are before these constructs, before the grasping conditions, you will see that you have already drunk three bowls of Qingyuan's finest wine. As long as the illusion that you still lack something is there, you will continue to seek.
The strength of your hold on ideas can be diminished through practice. The more you practice correctly, with the right attitude of not getting caught up with gaining and losing, having and not having, the more you are able to be free and realize that, in each and every moment, you are already drinking the best home-brewed wine of Chan.
Sekida's Comment
"Qingshui is alone and poor." He has lost all his "property," that is, his deluded thoughts, self-centered ego, and so on.
Caoshan said, “Venerable Shui!” “Yes, Master!” replied Qingshui. This is an exercise in positive samadhi, calling and responding, the answer coming like an echo to the call: "The mirrors reflect the lights of the golden palace, /The hills respond to the note of the moonlit tower's bell."
“You have already drunk three cups of fine Hakka wine..." From second to second Qingshui is enjoying the fine wine of samadhi; it is complete, finished, in every second, and yet also ever present.
"...and still you say that you have not yet moistened your lips.” Caoshan is saying, "Why do you feign ignorance of what you know perfectly well, the experience of positive samadhi?"
Senzaki's Comment
A monk is always alone and poor. A monk who has a family and a savings account is not a monk. In this koan, Caoshan the teacher and Qingshui are both monks, so naturally each is alone and poor.
"Qingshui is alone and poor. Will you give him support?" He meant, "I have never met a good teacher, and have worked alone for my emancipation. Please impart your wisdom to me." He was not looking for comfort or pleasure. He was not seeking fame or glory. He had even given up the desire to accumulate knowledge through book-learning. He was on the verge of accepting Zen, beyound intellectualization. He was really alone and poor, both materially and spiritually.
Caoshan said, “Venerable Shui!” “Yes, Master!” replied Qingshui. The switch was turned on, and in no time there was the light of Zen. Caoshan had nothing to impart to Qingshui. There was just a tiny catch that had kept the switch from turning on. That was an idea of "alone and poor" -- an idea of "I am on the verge of accpting Zen." As I always say, when you recognize that you are going to enter into samadhi, you are just leaving it.
In the verse, Mumon says Qingshui wishes to rival the richest. I would rather say Qingshui became the wealthiest when he responded, "Yes, Master!"
"You have already finished three cups of the best wine in China" -- i.e., you have drunk of Zen practice.
"Why, then, do you say you have not even wet your lips?" These words allowed the attaiment of Qingshui.
A Stanza from the Shodoka (Senzaki)
Sons of the Shakya are known to be poor,
But their poverty is of the body; their spiritual life knows no poverty.
The poverty-stricken body is wrapped in rags,
But their spirit holds within itself a rare, invaluable gem.
Shibayama's Comment
Yamada's Comment
Illustration by Mark T. Morse

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