Gateless Gate 8

Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #8
Xizhong Makes Carts

Personnel and Date
  • YUEAN Shanguo (Gettan Zenka, 1079-1152, 22nd gen), disciple of Kaifu Daoning
  • Date guess: ca. 1109
Master Yuean asked a monk, “Xizhong made a hundred carts. If he took off both wheels and removed the axle, what would he make clear about the cart?”[1]
[1] Aitken: Xizhong made a hundred carts. If you take off both wheels and the axle, what would be vividly apparent?
Cleary: The original wheel-maker made wheels with a hundred spokes. If you take away both sides and remove the axle, what does this clarify?
Guo Gu: Xizhong makes carriages with wheels of a hundred spokes. Yet, dismantle the two parts, the front and the back of the carriage, and remove the axle, then what will the carriage be?
Hinton: When What-Next invented the cartwheel, it had a hundred spokes. But what if hub and rim are broken off, spokes scattered away -- do you understand the bright clarity of what it could do then?
Low: Xizhong made a hundred carts. If we took off the wheels and removed the axle, what would be left?
Sekida: Xizhong, the first wheelmaker, made a cart whose wheels had a hundred spokes. Now, suppose you took a cart and removed both the wheels and the axle. What would you have?
Senzaki: Xizhong, the first wheel-maker in China, made two wheels of fifty spokes each. Now, suppose you remove the nave uniting the spokes. What would become of the wheel? If Xizhong had done this, could he be called a master wheel-maker?
Shibayama: Xichong made a cart whose wheels had a hundred spokes. Take both front and rear parts away and remove the axle: then what will it be?

Wumen's Comment
If you can realize this at once, your eye will be a shooting star and your spiritual activity like caching lightning.[2]
[2] Aitken: If you realize this directly, your eye is like a shooting star and your act is like snatching a bolt of lightning.
Cleary: If you can understand directly, your eyes will be like a shooting star, your mind like a flash of lightning.
Gu: If you can directly understand, your eyes will be like shooting stars. Such an occasion is like a flash of lightning.
Hinton: See straight through to the bright clarity in this, and your Buddha-deep eye's like a shooting star, the loom of origins playing out its cycles sudden as a lightning flash.
Low: The clarify this, one's eye should be like a shooting star, one's response a flash of lightning.
Sekida: If anyone can directly master this topic, his eye will be like a shooting star, his spirit like a flash of lightning.
Senzaki: If you can answer this question immediately, your eyes will be like a comet and your mind like a flash of lightning.
Shibayama: If you can immediately see through this, your eye will be like a shooting star and your spirituality like lightning.

Wumen's Verse
Where the active wheel revolves,
Even a master (or "skilled person") fails.[3]
It moves in four directions: above and below,
South and north, east and west.[4]
[3] Aitken: Where the wheel revolves even a master cannot follow it:
Cleary: Where the wheel of potential turns, Even experts are bewildered:
Guo Gu: When the axle of the wheel turns, Even the expert is deluded.
Hinton: There where the loom of origins wheels around, a sage too is bewildered, sets out
Low: When the wheel of mind-activity whirs Even a master doesn't know how to cope.
Sekida: When the spiritual wheels turn, Even the master fails to follow them.
Senzaki: When the hubless wheel turns, Neither master nor no-master can stop it.
Shibayama: When the vividly working wheel turns Even an expert is lost.

[4] Aitken: the four cardinal half-points, above, below, north, south, east, west.
Cleary: All around the compass, zenith and nadir, South, north, east, west.
Guo Gu: The four directions plus above and below, South is to the north as east is to the west.
Hinton: wandering above and below through all four directions -- south, north, east, west.
Low: It moves in all directions in heaven and earth, North, south, east, and west.
Sekida: They travel in all directions, above and below, North, south, east, and west.
Senzaki: It turns above the heavens and below the earth -- South, North, East, and West.
Shibayama: Four directions, above and below: South, north, east, and west.

Case Continuation per Wudeng Huiyuan
After saying these words, Yuean used his stick to draw a circle in the air. Then he said: "Never fail to recognize the balance of weight."[5] He then got up, left the meditation platform, thanked the servants, and left.
[5] Cleary: "Don't stick to the zero point of the scale" (i.e. realize not only essence but also function -- the unification of nirvana and samsara.)

Other Yuean Tales (Andy Ferguson)
Another time, Yuean said to the monks: "When mind is born, dharmas are also born. When the mind dies, all dharmas die. When the mind and dharmas are forgotten, the turtle is called the Big Turtle [on whom the earth rests]. Honorable Khan! Can you speak or not? If you can, I will give you the abbot's stick! If you can't say anything then go back to the monks' hall and have some tea!"

A monk asked: "Why did Bodhidharma sit in front of the wall for nine years?"
Master Yuean said: The fish swims in cloudy water.
Aitkens's Comment
Yuean had a purpose in invoking Xizhong from the mythological past. By pointing to the Adam of the cart, he is calling to the depths of the monk's own psyche. Yuean's asking about the original person and the original cart.
When Xizhong made those carts he was lost in cutting and fitting. We can say that he did not cut and he did not fit. The same is true of any artist. A word of caution here: the oneness of rider and bicycle, artist and canvas, or Xizhong and his carts may be quite wonderful, but they are not the fundamental matter. Come off the top of that hundred-foot pole!
Oneness doesn't do it. You must become intimate, and this means taking all the parts away.
This is the lesson of the Diamond Sutra. There is no formula by which the Buddha attained anything. The 32 Marks of the Buddha do not identify the Buddha. Wipe them away! Throw away the dictionary itself -- now what is vividly clear about the Buddha?
Cleary's Comment
The mental exercise of dismantling structures, taking the "wheels" off the "axle," is not a destruction or rejection of rationality, as some Zen popularizers have claimed; it is a means of getting to the source of mental construction, the basic mind itself.
Perceiving immediate reality as it is in the process of becoming is an experience that by its very nature baffles the conceptual process, which is inherently retrospective in that it functions by selecting and assembling recollections, not by dealing directly with suchness. When you experience the world in the immediacy of present becoming through the opened eye of Zen, everything is fresh and new, everything is unique and unimagined.
Yuelin's[6] Verse (Cleary)
The ocean god knows it's valuable, but doesn't know its price;
Left in the human world, its light illumines the night.
The founder of Zen smiles and nods his head;
Who knows the action hasn't a seam or gap?
[6] Yuelin Shiguan (1143-1217) was Wumen's teacher.

Guo Gu's Comment
Is your body you? How about your thoughts? Are your happy thoughts, or your negative thoughts, you? Since you have both happy and negative thoughts, which ones are the true you? Who is thinking anyway? Do we have any control over the thoughts? We think about A, we think about B, about C, sometimes we think of things that make us miserable. To say that all of these are "me" is schizophrenic. To say none of these is me, and that there is a true me somewhere separate from these, is also foolish.
If you want to know the path to happiness, discover the freedom within.
This case encourages you, if you don't want to die with fear and regrets, to live your life fully, freely, without bondage. What is it to live unbound? It is not living without rules, like a free spirit. Rather, it is to be from the shackles of vexations and deluded thinking -- "things" that bind you wherever you are, whatever you do.
You may wonder, Who am I if not my body, thoughts, and experiences? As all the parts of your body, thoughts, and experiences change in each moment, what do you call yourself?
Shallow awakening experiences are like a flash of lightening, and you get a glimpse of complete freedom. All the burdens and baggage you have been troubled by throughout your life suddenly vanish as if a thousand-pound weight had been lifted from your shoulders. You see the world without self-referentiality. But with a greater, more thorough awakening, you taste complete liberation.
Life, death, carriage, and chariot are just phenomena you create. In wonderful, selfless existence, all your actions benefit all beings. Life permeates everything there is. Everything is already present, alive; you just need to stop fixating on carriages and chariots.
Low's Comment
If you take a cart to pieces and throw away the pieces, what would be left? On the face of it the answer is so obvious: nothing! But that will not do. As innocuous as it may seem, this koan goes right to the heart of human terror. When one takes away your arms, legs, and head, what will be left? Again many people dread the answer, which, they feel, is also so obvious -- nothing.
Carts appear and disappear, parts are added and taken away, but the nature of the void remains unchanged. What is this void? It is not nothing. To see into that, Wumen says, "One's eye should be like a shooting star, one's response a flash of lightning" unmediated by thought, unobstructed by what you believe.
Sekida's Comment
In the analogy your body is the wheels, your brain the axle. Now suppose you have discarded them both. This is a description of what actually happens in absolute samedhi. Both bodily sensation and mental activity fall away. The action of consciousness ceases and absolute stillness reigns throughout the body and mind. But the master of the mind is still aware. Thus, it is different from sleep or lethargy, in which you drift in a condition of blurred activity of consciousness or fall into a comatose state.
As you come out of absolute samadhi you are freed from your deluded condition of mind. You have regained pure consciousness, positive samadhi. Enlightened consciousness penetrates the universe like a shooting star.
Dao De Jing, Chapter 10 (trans. James Legge, with adaptations by Senzaki)
When the body and mind are held together in one embrace, they can be kept from separating.
When one gives undivided attention to the breath, and brings it under the utmost degree of control, one can become pliant as a child.
When one has cleansed away the most tempting sights and thoughts, one can become perfect.
In loving the people and ruling the state, cannot he proceed without any (purpose of) action?
In the opening and shutting of his gates of heaven, cannot he do so as a female bird?
While his intelligence reaches in every direction, cannot he (appear to) be without knowledge?
He can produce and nourish without claiming anything as his own.
He can do anything without anyone being aware of it.
He can preside over all, and yet without controlling.
This is the Mysterious Quality.
Dao De Jing, Chapter 11 (trans. Wang Keping)
Thirty spokes are united around the hub to make a wheel,
But it is on the central hole for the axle
That the utility of the chariot depends.
Clay is kneaded to mold a utensil,
But it is on the empty space inside it
That the utility of the utensil depends.
Doors and windows are cut out to form a room,
But it is on the interior vacancy
That the utility of the room depends.
Therefore, have-substance brings advantage
While have-no-substance creates utility.
Senzaki's Comment
If you pile up all the separated parts of an automobile, how can you recognize your own car? If Xizhong had done this, could he be called a master wheel-maker? Where would he find his invented wheel? Is he a master or is he not a master?
As the Dao De Jing, chapter 11, indicates, nothingness is the very source of everything. A wheel is merely a product of karma relations of spokes, hub, and other parts, and there is nothing to be called a center or a controlling entity. Xizhong never thought of mastership; therefore he was a master.
Dao De Jing, chapter 10, expresses the way in which we count our breaths in meditation. The attitude described is that of a bodhisattva.
Zen has nothing to do with wheels or wheel-makers. Yuean asked the monks this question to let all of you see clearly the creative source of nothingness, which is the original person in full.
Shibayama's Comment
You might want to say something like: "A cart can take shape when various parts such as an axle, hubs, spokes, wheels, etc. are all put together. When it is dismantled and take to pieces, the very form of the car is there no more." This may be one Buddhist doctrine, but it is not Zen.
Yuean does not ask for a philosophical interpretation but wants you to show your dynamic Zen working. He asks you to open your eye to the Truth of Zen, where human consciousness has not yet started to work. "Take both front and rear parts away, and remove the axle," he says, meaning directly transcend the form of a cart. Subjectively cast away one's own existence. Transcend the dualistic distinction of I-and-you, subject-and-object, and live and work in the transcendental and yet individualistic Oneness.
A Japanese saying on the secret of horsemanship: "No rider on the saddle; no horse under the saddle." To become an expert rider, one must practice diligently until finally one achieves the state of complete unity of rider and horse. Further, he must come to the stage where his is not even conscious of the unity itself.
When Xizhong made a cart, he himself was a cart through and through. But the expert rider, or expert cart-maker is not a Zen Master. The unity of the expert has its own value and beauty and may justly be admired, but it is limited in most cases to a particular aspect of one's work. The expert's unity is not based on a fundamental awakening which completely changes his personality and life. The ultimate aim of Zen is to accomplish a completely new religious personality by the satori experience, and to live Zen at every moment. Without this fundamental experience, whatever special skill or psyche one may have, it is not Zen at all.
Immediately cast away all your consciousness and be directly the cart itself.
When this transcendental cart of no-form runs with all its parts cast away, it moves but is unmoving; it does not move, but is moving.
Old Zen Master's Verse (Shibayama)
The mind turns and works
In accordance with ten thousand situations.
Wherever it may turn,
It is mysteriously serene.
Yamada's Comment
In this case, our essential nature comes on stage in the guise of a cart. If you are working on Mu, you must treat the cart as nothing other than Mu. If you are preacticing breath counting, the cart is nothing but counting your breaths. If you are practicing skikantaza, then the cart is "just sitting," and the cart is the one sitting. Everything we do from morning to night, from birth to death, is nothing but the cart. The one who sees and whatever is seen -- the one who hears and whatever is heard -- these all are carts.
The wheels and axle mean our concepts and ideas. If you "took off" all your ideas and "removed" all your concepts, what would become obvious to you about your own self? And what would be left?
What we call our mind or consciousness: does it have any form? No. Any color? No. Can we locate it? No. The mind has nothing. The mind is nothing. Our essential nature is nothing but the boundless extension or manifestation of this ordinary mind of ours. Though void, it is limitless and infinite. Therefore, I call it the empty-infinite or the empty-limitlessness, and this is our essential nature. All phenomena have empty-limitlessness behind them, so to speak. As a matter of fact, all phenomena are nothing other than empty-limitlessness itself.
When you work on this case, you must show me your realization through the cart since this is the medium used here. Actually you can present your essential nature through anything -- sometimes a stick, sometimes a dog (as in Zhaozhou's Mu) and so on. But here it is a cart, so that is how you must show me your realization.
Our greatest work is to discover our essential nature. Who are YOU? If you point to your body, that is yours and not YOU. You will only come to know who you are by direct experience, and then your eye will be like a shooting star.
Hotetsu's Verse
The world is composed
Of serenity.
Or gratitude.
Understanding, affection, equanimity, kindness:
These are the atoms of reality --
Each atom itself constituted by all of them.

Hoeing: the hoe is my body.
Bicycling: the bicycle is.
Not hoeing, not bicycling: my body is hoe and bicycle,
And river, star, you.
All of me made of those atoms,
Neither created nor destroyed,
Ever transforming from one form to another.

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