Blue Cliff Record 38, Book of Serenity 29

Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #38
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #29
Fengxue's "Mind Seal"

Personnel and Date
  • FENGXUE Yanzhao (Fuketsu Enshô, 896-973, 14th gen), disciple of Nanyuan Huiyong
  • Lu Pi, a senior monk
  • a government official: magistrate or governor
  • Date guess: 931 (just before settling into teaching at Fengxue Temple)
Yuanwu's Introduction (Sato)
If you talk about the gradual, it goes against the normal, yet conforms to the Way.
Amid the busiest city, seven vertical and eight horizontal.
If you talk about the sudden, it leaves no tracks.
Even a thousand sages cannot seek it out.
If you raise neither the gradual nor the sudden, how will it be?
For the swift person, a single word; for the alert steed, one flick of the whip.
At such a time, who is the able Zen personage?
I will give you an example, look!
Wansong's Introduction (Sato)
Chess players, going all too slowly, rot the handle of the ax;[1]
Your eyes swirling, your head going astray, you are robbed of the dipper handle.
Falling into a devil's cave and keeping hold of a dead snake's head,
Are you capable of radically transforming yourself like a leopard?
[1] Once in ancient China a wood-cutter named Ôshitsu went into the mountain with an ax. On the way he saw four boys playing chess. Finding the game very interesting he sat there and watched it. He was given some seeds to eat, and they perfectly stilled his hunger. As the game was over, he stood up, to find that his ax was rotten and crumbled to the ground. He went back home, but, strangely enough, there was no one he knew. At last he found out that one hundred years had passed in the meantime. -Sato

Case (Sato)
When he was staying at the government office of the Province Ying, Fengxue entered the hall [to preach] and said, “The heart seal[2] of the Patriarch [ie, Bodhidharma] resembles in its form the activities of the iron ox.[3] Gone – lo, it’s there; there – lo, it’s ruined. If it’s neither gone nor there, would it be right to give a seal [of approval] or not?”[4]
Then Elder Lu Pi came up, and said, “I have the activities of the iron ox.[5] [However,] I ask you, Master, not to give me the seal.”
Fengxue said, “I am accustomed to leveling the great ocean through fishing whales. But, alas, now I find instead a frog wriggling about in the mud.”
Lu Pi stood there considering.
Fengxue shouted “Kaatsu!” and said, “Why don't you say anything, Elder?”
Lu Pi was perplexed.
Fengxue hit him with his whisk and said, “Do you remember what you said? Say something, I'll check it for you.”
Lu Pi tried to say something.
Fengxue hit him again with his whisk.
The Magistrate said, “Buddha's law and the King's law are of the same nature.”
Fuketsu said, “What principle do you see in them?”
The Magistrate said, “If you do not make a decision where a decision should be made, you are inviting disorder.”
Fuketsu descended from the rostrum.
[2] “seal” refers to both the stamp that produces an impression and the impression that is produced by such a stamp. Fengxue plays upon this double meaning.
[3] In the Yellow River area in Sansei Province there was a commercially very important road called Hotsu-kan. From the period of the Warring States a floating bridge was made upon the river to secure the traffic of the road, but every time the Yellow River flooded the bridge was washed away and had to be reconstructed. During the period of Emperor Gensô of the Tang Dynasty in 724 they constructed a floating bridge with ships, which were connected with one another through iron chains; these chains were then bound to anchors in the shape of iron oxen, iron men or iron pillars implemented at the bottom of the river water. Archaeological research in 1989 found that an iron ox was 1.5 meters high and 3.5 meters long, and weighed from 55 to 75 tons. -Sato
[4] I.e., If the stamp of the iron ox is gone, the print of the ox as its impression is there; when the stamp of the iron ox sits there, the print of the ox as its impression is ruined (since you cannot see the impression as covered by the stamp itself). -Sato "The Dharma Seal of he patriarch is like the iron ox's spirit. If the seal is removed, the impression is left; if it is not removed, the impression does not appear. If you want neither of them, tell me, should you or should you not press the seal down?" (Sekida); "The characteristics of the Ancestors' mind-seal is like the functioning of the iron ox. Taking the seal off leaves an imprint. Leaving the seal on covers the imprint. But neither taking it off or leaving it on, is it right to seal this, or right to not seal it?" (Wick); "The seal of the Zen mind may be described as like the workings of the iron ox -- when it is removed, the impression remains; when it is left there, the impression is ruined. What if it is neither removed nor left remaining -- is it right to seal or not seal?" (Cleary).
[5] "I have the iron ox's spirit" (Sekida); "I have an iron ox's function" (Wick); "I have the workings of the iron ox" (Cleary).

Xuedou's Verse (Sato)
He snares Lu Pi, and makes him mount the iron ox;
The spear and armor of the Three Profundities do not treat him lightly.
All waters heading for the castle of the Chu king –
At a single shout he reverses their course.
Hongzhi's Verse (Sato)
The activities of the iron ox:
The seal is there – the seal is ruined;
Going beyond the head of Vairocana, [ie, beyond the world of absolute essence]
Coming as a Nirmanakaya buddha[6] to the tip of the tongue in order to sit there,
Fengxue possesses the scale, and Lu Pi is defeated.
On the stick, at the shouting – a flash of lightning, a spark of flint:
All is clear, the pearl is on the table;
If you raise your eyebrows, it's already gone.
[6] The ultimate buddha that appears corresponding to each situation of the living beings.

Sturmer's Verse
With function and position
constantly changing
it's hard to know
where you are
and what you should do next.
No doubt orders will follow
Already the crimson seal
leaves a crimson imprint.

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