Gateless Gate 43

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #43
Dogen's 300 #269
Shoushan's Shippei

Personnel and Date
  • SHOUSHAN Xingnian (Shuzan Shônen, 926-93, 15th gen), disciple of Fengxue Yanzhao
  • Date guess: ca. 979
Case (Aitken)
The priest Shoushan held up his short bamboo staff before his assembly and said, “You monks, if you call this a staff, you’re entangled. If you don’t call this a staff, you ignore the fact.”[1]
Tell me, you monks, what will you call it?”
[1] “call it a bamboo stick, you are clinging” vs. “you are ignoring” (Cleary);
"say it’s a bamboo comb then you’re grasping" vs. "you’re turning away" (Ferguson);
“call it a stick, you oppose it” vs. “you deny it” (Guogu);
“say this is a bamboo abbot-staff, you violate what it is” vs. “you deny what it is” (Hinton);
“call this a staff, you hide reality” vs. “you deny the fact” (Low);
“call this a short staff, you oppose its reality” vs. “you ignore the fact” (Senzaki);
“call this a shippei, you oppose its reality” vs. “you ignore the fact” (Sekida);
“call this a staff, you are committed to the name” vs. “you negate the fact” (Shibayama).
“call this a shippei, you are adhering to the fact” vs. “you are opposing the fact” (Yamada)

Wumen's Comment (Aitken)
Call it a short staff and you’re entangled. Don’t call it a short staff and you ignore the fact. You cannot use words. You cannot not use words. Speak quickly! Speak quickly!
Wumen's Verse (Aitken)
Holding up a short staff –
faithfully giving and taking life;
entangling and ignoring interweave;
Buddhas and Ancestor beg for their lives.
Daido Loori's Comment (Dogen's 300)
If you call it a stick, you are caught up in the words and ideas that describe it, and that misses it. If you say it is not a stick, you deny its existence, and that, too, misses it. To say it is both a stick and not a stick is a thousand miles from the truth. To say it is neither a stick nor not a stick is like living in a ghost cave.
Putting aside Shoushan's question, how do you understand Shexian's actions? Moreover, what is his blindness? If you can say a word of Zen and clarify this matter without opening your mouth to explain, I'll grant that you have a bit of understanding.
Extended Case -- with Daido's Interjections (Dogen's 300)
Shoushan Xingnian held up a bamboo stick
   Throughout heaven and earth, there is just this.
and said to the assembly, "If you call it a stick, you defile it."
   Why create limitations?
"If you don't call it a stick, you miss it."
   It would be difficult to deny its existence.
"What do you call it?"
   Gaa! He's asking them to speak of the unspeakable.
Shexian Guixing, who heard him, had great realization.
   I wonder, what did he realize?
He went close to Shoushan, snatched away the stick, and broke it in two. He threw the pieces down on the ground and said, "What is this?"
   Without a moment's hesitation, he comes right back. But does he really see it?
Shoushan said, "You blind fool!"
   Indeed! But what kind of blindness is it?
Shexian bowed.
   Teacher and student are both bathing in the same foul water.
Daido's Verse
In the middle of the night, there is light;
within light, there is night.
The truth of this matter is not to be seen
within the realm of yin and yang.

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