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The Blue Cliff Record, Case 42

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Published in 
 · 31 Mar 2023

The Blue Cliff Record, Case 42
Layman Pang's Good Snowflakes

Master Engo's Pointer:

Bringing it out, unique and alone, is still dripping with water, dragging through the mud. When knocking and resounding occur together, (it's still like) a silver mountain, an iron wall.

If you describe and discuss, you see ghosts in front of your skull. If you seek it in thought, you sit beneath the black mountain. The bright shining sun lights up the sky. The pure whispering wind circles the earth.

But say, do the Ancients have any obscurities? To test I'm citing this old case. Look.

The Main Case:

When Layman Pang took leave of Yao Shan, Shan ordered ten Ch'an travelers to escort him to the gate. The Layman pointed to the snow in the air and said, "Good snowflakes—they don't fall in any other place."

At the time one of the Ch'an travellers, named Ch'uan, said, "Where do they fall?" The Layman slapped him once. Ch'uan said, "Even a layman shouldn't be so coarse." The Layman said, "Though you call yourself a Ch'an traveller this way the King of Death still won't let you go." Ch'uan said, "How about you, Layman?" Again the Layman sslapped him and said, "Your eyes see like a blind man, your mouth speaks like a mute." Hsueh Tou said besides, "When Pang first spoke I just would have made a snowball and hit him with it."

Master Hsueh Tou's Verse:

The snowball hits! The snowball hits!

Old Pang's ability cannot grasp it.

Gods and humans do not know for themselves.

In eyes, in ears, absolutely clean.

Absolutely clean --

Even the blue-eyed barbarian monk Bodhidharma would find it hard to discriminate.

I picked this koan for today's discourse because Layman Pang is one of the characters in Zen history often used as a model of lay practice. We’ll look at what the history offers us in terms of lay practice, what we have created here at Zen Mountain Monastery, and then we will examine this koan in depth. Mahayana Buddhism makes a point of defining itself as completely nondiscriminatory; characterized by the bodhisattva spirit and vow, its emergence marked the opening of Buddhism to women and lay practitioners. Yet when we examine the actual history itself, we find that its inclusiveness has been largely only lip service. The teaching indicated that the opportunity to practice and realize the Way was not the sole province of male monastics, yet in actual fact women and lay people were given very limited access and support. Perhaps some examples were simply lost in history because the keepers of the records were men within monastic institutions. In terms of lay practice, we have only two primary examples: Layman Pang, whom we meet in this koan, and Vimalakirti, a contemporary of the Buudha.

The Buddhism in China prior to the arrival of Bodhidharma was established in the major cities and received great support from the power structures of the day. But eventually the powers changed, Buddhist monasteries were destroyed and many monks were killed. Many of the those who survived hid out in the mountains, and there a very different style of Buddhist practice began to take place. There evolved an active hermit practice, away from the centers, away from the power places. Royal patronage could no longer be counted upon. The techniques of begging that were used in India were not possible in the remote hills of China. So, a different kind of model was born. In the several generations after Bodhidharma, Zen lineages evolved with distinct teaching styles. The third ancestor in China, Sekito, author of the Faith Mind Sutra., was actually a lay practitioner when he came to enlightenment. He later became ordained and set up a traditional Taoist-style monastery. But his original practice and his training was as a lay practitioner. Several generations later the first distinctly Zen monastery evolved, unique in and of itself, different from any other forms of monasticism. Records show that there were numerous eminent lay practitioners studying at the various mountain monasteries, though none became successors in the lineages. For a lay practitioner to engage this form of monastic-based training required making a long journey into the remote mountain wilderness. Obviously, after making such a pilgrimmage, they would stay for extended periods of time, often several years. Most of the lay practitioners who did this were among the upper class of China. Many of them were inspectors or the equivalent of senators or supreme court judges. In spite of these men we have some records of, and the other lay practitioners we can deduce were probably training during this time, no lay lineage emerged. We do not know of any successor to Layman Pang or his wife or daughter, Lauchow. Layman Pang's daughter who was also considered very enlightened, probably even more so than even her father or mother. HanShan is another famous lay practitioner, the famous Cold Mountain poet. He too didn't leave any successors.

It's kind of interesting when you look at Layman Pang's life, you realize that Pang was more of a monk, in a sense, than many of the monks. A lot of the monks in China at that time were very close to the aristocracy. They had lots of wealth and ambition and freedom. They were hardly people who had taken vows of poverty and were living alone on a mountain. Layman Pang on the other hand came from a wealthy family and was a very successful merchant himself. Even very early in his life, in spite of the fact that he was a successful merchant, on the piece of property that he owned he had a hermitage that he used to go to and spend most of his time. He had a wife and two children—a boy and a girl. He spent a lot of time in his hermitage, studying Buddhist texts and meditating, and then at some point he started visiting a couple of monasteries. He had an enlightenment experience under Sekito. He stayed there for a short while. Then he went to visit the great Master Basso, had a deep experience with Basso and stayed there a couple of years, received the transmission of Basso—so there was a precedent right there—he actually received transmission. And after his enlightenment experience with Sekito, Sekito asked him, "Will you now dye your robes?" In other words, will you trade in your white robe of the lay practitioner and become a monk? And he said he had no intention of doing that. He wishes to stay as a layman. He also spent seventeen years with Yakusan it's said. That's this case right here. So he got an incredible amount of training from Yakusan and that's in our lineage, by the way, the Soto lineage, that came out of Yakusan.

At one point in his life he sold his house, gave his house to the village to have it made into a temple is actually what he did. He took all his worldly possessions and rowed them out to the middle of a lake and sank the boat. People wondered why didn't he give them to somebody who needed them? He really felt that possessions, material wealth, polluted the mind and created delusion, and he didn't want to give that to anybody. So he just sank it. It doesn't say very much what was going on with his wife, what she had to say about this whole thing. The account is basically about Layman Pang and you hear a little bit about his wife and daughter. His daughter used to defeat him all the time in dharma combat. The three of them would sit around the kitchen table having dharma combat. There are a couple of koans that appear in "Koans of the Way of Reality" that deal with that. He made his living selling baskets and made enough money for food. He was basically a wanderer. He wandered from monastery to monastery. When he needed money he'd sell a few baskets and buy some food. He had no worldly possessions and, if anything is cloud and water—the description of a monk—Layman Pang fit that description.

So when you look at the history of lay practice in Mahayana Buddhism, although we speak of it a lot, essentially there isn't any. The history of lay practice is being born in the West. It never existed before. And when you look at what's happening in the West in terms of lay practice, most lay practice centers are based on and built around the Zazenkai, that is evening sittings and periodic sesshins. If they're in a Rinzai lineage there's koan study and face-to-face teaching with the teacher. If it's Soto lineage, there's not even any kind of specific training other than zazen, and there's no intent to transmit. In the Rinzai lineage, there is the intent to transmit. It's possible for a lay practioner—and there are example of them—to receive transmission, just like Basso and Layman Pang. To date, probably Yamada Roshi—who is a modern lay practition—before he died . . . he was director of a hospital and took over Yasutani Roshi's Zazenkai . . . he's probably transmitted to ten lay practitioners, and among them are several priests in the Catholic church. What was transmitted was the lay lineage that he received from Yasutani, not a priestly lineage. So they're still Catholic priests, but they're Zen masters. One of the people he transmitted to was Aitken Roshi, and Aitken Roshi by now probably has transmitted to about seven people, and is still teaching. Koryu Roshi, who is in our lineage—my dharma grandfather—was a lay Zen master, and he transmitted to four or five people, one of them Maezumi Roshi.

But the basic form has remained, that kind of skimpy zazenkai, periodic sitting and periodic sesshin and study with the teacher. When we came into existence here, the question came up how to deal with lay practice. One of the things that needs to be considered when you look at lay practice is the time element. People have to travel to get here. People have home responsibilities. People have families, a limited amount of money to do retreats and travel great distances. Taking that into account, you have a choice of diluting the training, in other words make a training that's less than you would normally do in order to accommodate the people who can't do more, and that's basically the form that's in existence, or you can take the most rigorous and extensive training program that you can design and create methods for making it accessible to people who don't live close to the monastery or don't have the amount of time. What you need to do in order to do that is create support groups and methods and systems in order to conduct the training, and of course the training is going to take a little bit longer than if you're doing it full time every day. If you're doing it part time and away from a center and a teacher, the amount of exposure to koan study and so on is less, with less time available.

What we've evolved here at Zen Mountain Monastery over that last thirteen years and is in its maturity now, is probably the most comprehensive lay practice program in existence anywhere. And it has absolutely no precedent in history. There's nothing in history we can look at and say, okay, let's use this form like we can, in terms of monasticism for instance, look at Yakujo and say let's use this form. It's new, it's unique and it's got an integrity completely its own. It's not based on anything other than its own integrity. Those support systems that are specifically designed so that a lay practitioner can practice include things like training advisors, training manuals for the different stages of training. The existence of the different stages of training, the different areas of training. And keep in mind that those areas of training, all of them with the exception of face-to-face teaching, can be conducted at home. It's possible to continue one's training a hundred different ways at home. For example, academic study. The student who takes a course in Buddhism at a local college is doing academic study, and that's included in their training record. The student who is studying a martial art or other body practice through some kind of systematic training, that goes into their training record. A student who is studying any of the traditional Zen arts away from the center, that's included in their training record. You do the precepts at home, you do liturgy at home, you study at home, you do zazen at home. The only thing you can't do at home is the face-to-face teaching, and believe me we're working on methods of doing that. As the incredible communications media expands, it may be possible to do direct face-to-face teaching privately, one to one. When it happens, we'll take advantage of it. Basso would have taken advantage of it if he had it. He would have had video tapes and audio tapes. We've created the Society of Mountains and Rivers sitting groups around the country so that wherever there's a group of students there's usually a sitting group that allows them to come together. We've set up non-resident student training retreats specifically designed for non-resident students. Training in home practice is a regular thing that we're doing every year now. The eight gates training, the liturgy training, body practice, art practice, workshops that go on constantly. There are twelve sesshins every year; half of them are unrestricted. In addition to the twelve there are six weekend sesshin to make it available to people who can only come on weekends. There's residential training available anywhere from a month to several years for people who want to intensify it for periods of time. And a resident teacher. We carry on an incredible correspondence, 150 to 200 phone calls and letters every month that are directly practice related. "How do I do this?" "What do I do when this comes up?" "Does my left leg go on top of my right leg?" And so on. It takes four of us to handle this correspondence, to say nothing of the training advisors and their interaction. And, of course, probably the most important thing that we've done is created a corporation whose major function it is to provide media support for people who live away from the Monastery. So books, journals, tapes, videos, whatever . . . We have students in Israel, New Zealand, France, California, Montanta, who can't get here. People in prison. Those media support items are of vital importance to them. You wouldn't believe the impact is has on their lives and their practice.

So there's no question that the history of Buddhism, of Zen, has given lip service to lay practice. And that for the first time in its 2500-year history, here in the West there is beginning to emerge a real lay practice. It doesn't exist, not really, in Japan, or China, or Vietnam, or Korea. There, what lay practitioners do is dana. That's not what we do. Lay practitioners practice. And most of what's going on in the West to date is not much more than sitting and working with a teacher. No integrated or comprehensive program of training. And also what's unique is that here at Zen Mountain Monastery and the Society of Mountains and Rivers, there are parallel ways of receiving the transmission. There is going to be a lay transmission as soon as one of the lay practitioners does it, and it corresponds almost identically to what's going on with the monk practitioners. So we have lay shusos, and the next step after shuso is what Myotai already did, called adept. When the first lay practitioner accomplishes that, they will do the same ceremony that she did and also receive the raksu as she did, and have that recognition. The next step after that, which is something she'll be doing soon, is dharma holder. Dharma holder means having received the intent to transmit, basically having completed koan study except for the precepts. We'll be doing that soon. Having received the intent for dharma sanction is what a lay practitioner would get, and they would be a dharma holder. Exactly the same way. The next step for a monk practitioner is to become a priest. The next step for a lay practitioner is to become a dharma minister. This allows them to do liturgical stuff that normally lay practioners don't do. But some of our lay practitioners are interested in doing it. If there's a certification by a recognized religious group, this would be recognized by, for example, prisons, and hospitals, and so on. So that a lay practitioner who has received that training can minister along liturgical lines, as well as a monk. It's different what they do, and how they do it, but each has an integrity of its own. They're codependent, they're interrelated. And finally, the transmission itself. Dharma transmission will go to monks and will go to lay practitioners. They'll each become teachers in their own right. Lay students who have received the transmission will eventually head centers. They'll be the spiritual directors of centers.

And I say all of this to encourage those of you who are lay practitioners to do it. There's the same route available,. Whether your track is the Buddhist track or the clerical track, the same kinds of possibilities exist. The difference is that the lay practitioner's life takes place in the world and is doing all of this with world responsibilities, and the monk practitioner's life takes place in the monastery, with the responsibilities of the monastery.

One of the things that this is all based on—the relationship between monk and lay practice, and I've talked about it a hundred times—it's a dynamic relationship, and it's the same kind of relationship that exists with any duality. It's based on the five ranks of Master Tozan. One of these days we'll do a book on that. It's a dynamic interaction, just like the interaction between any of the dualities. It's based on the four dharmadhatus of Hua-yen philosophy. It's image is the diamond net of Indra. It's a codependent, mutual causality, coorigination dynamic. One is dependent upon the other.

This didn't exist at the time of Pang. Pang was unique in history. Held in incredibly high regard by all of the places that he visited. His biography was written by a government official who was responsible for the deaths of hundred of monks. I remember back in the old days, when I was a lay practitioner I was very anti-monk. I caused all kinds of difficulties for the monks at the place where I was practicing. I was very proud of my white robe and my beard and my long hair. I challenged everything that the monks did. And if anything that they did was different than what the lay people did, I'd complain and have it changed. I used my power as vice president of the organization to get these things done. I wanted to basically destroy monk practice.

Well this guy was worse. He just ordered them killed. He paid a bounty on bald heads. He was a lot worse than I was. And he's the one who wrote Layman Pang's biography, which is kind of incredible. He came to realization under another Zen master and then became a student of Layman Pang, and was so taken by him—of course he stopped killing monks—he became a Buddhist disciple and supported Buddhism until his death. And one of the major things he's done for the history of Zen is to write the biography of this eminent layman.

When Pang called on Matsu, he asked Matsu, "What person doesn't keep company with the myriad things?" In other words, is there anyone who is not at unity with the ten thousands things? Matsu (Basso in Japanese) said, "Wait until you can swallow all the water in the West river in one gulp, then I'll tell you." At that point, the account here says the layman "emptied out in great enlightenment and he made up the verse, saying 'The ten directions are common gathering. Everyone studies not doing. This is the place where buddhas are chosen. Minds empty, they return successfully.'"

Then later, after studying for a couple of years with Basso and receiving his transmission, he went to visit Yakusan. Yakusan held him in very high esteem. When he was getting ready to take his leave after his long stay there, he had ten of his monks accompany him out to the main gate as a gesture of his importance. As they were walking out the gate, and of course at this point Pang is definitely a teacher and here he has these ten monks in tow, and it's reminiscent of Vimalakirti playing with the monks that the Buddha sent when he was sick. "Go to Virmalakirti's house and see how he's doing." Virmalakirti just played with them. The whole sutra is that playing with, of course, the dharma coming out. Pang does the same thing. They're walking and the snow is falling and Pang points to the snow and says, "Beautiful snowflakes. They don't fall in any other place." One of the monks says to him, "Where do they fall?" Pang immediately turned and hit him. The monk says, "Even a layman shouldn't be so coarse." Pang hit him again. When he hit him the second time, the layman said, "Though you call yourself a Zen practioner, this way the king of death won't let you go." In other words his answer reveals his question, reveals that he has no sense of what Pang was talking about when he said "Beautiful snowflakes fall no place but here." Where do they fall? Where are they falling here? He doesn't see it. Snowflakes are falling? So Pang hits him. And the monk says, "Even a layman shouldn't be so coarse." Pang hits him again and says, "Though you call yourself a Zen traveler this way, the king of death still won't let you go." This monk was a trained monk and he was used to dharma combat, and he knew Layman Pang and probably encountered him many times in the monastery, came right back at him; he turned the spear around and poked it at the layman, and said, "How about you?" Again, P'ang slapped him, and said, "Your eyes see like a blind man, you mouth speaks like a mute. " The footnote calls this a conciliatory statement — the reading of the verdict by him. Setcho said, when Pang first spoke, I just would have made a snowball and hit him with it. What does he mean, "Beautiful snowflakes they fall nowhere else?" Is it snowing on the other mountain, or is just snowing here? Is snowing in Woodstock, or is just snowing here? What does it mean, "They fall nowhere else but here?" And what does the monk mean when he says, "Then where do they fall?" So when he said this, it is not the same question. When he asked this, it wasn't that he did not understand what Pang was getting at, but the problem was that rolling out and rolling in were not in accord. There was a statement here in the pointer "When knocking and resounding occur together, it is like the silver mountain, an iron wall." In other words it fills the whole universe. Knocking and resounding — the echo when you call, or when the national teacher calls, "Attendant!" "Yes, Master?" "Attendant!" "Yes, Master?" "Attendant!" "Yes, Master?" "Attendant!" "Yes, Master?" all along the Master said I thought I had my back turned to you, now it is you who has your back turned to me, approving. When Mahakayashyapa said, "Ananda!" and said, "Yes, Master?" it was the same thing: knocking and resounding occurring together. So what is the sound ("Hello!), and the echo (hello!)? One reality. That reality fills the whole universe. Rolling up and rolling out are not the same. Rolling iout is also expressed as lifting up and pushing down, letting go and holding back, one is an expression of phenomena and differentiation in the world, and the other is the expression of unity, the absolute, oneness. Letting go — the world. Holding back — the absolute. And if the disciple is going to be in accord with that, it should be in relationship to each other. It is like a beautiful dance. That is when the are in accord. That is the silver mountain, an iron wall. It is impenetrable, it reaches everywhere. So what he ended up doing was falling into this trap of the layman. "The king of death will never let you go." Not being free of life and death. And not being free of life and death, you are sticking everywhere, in all the dualities. If you have resolved the dualites, if you can see Vimilakirti's non-dual dharma, you see it in all. One corner is experienced, all four corners are revealed. What about the Layman? Where was he sticking? Again, he hit him, "Your eyes see like a blind man. Your mouth speaks like a mute" After he hit him, he had he grandmotherly compassion to explain the reason that he hit him. Where is the monk sticking? What is the point of this koan? What is that Layman Pang is trying to reveal. Feel Zen mountains all taken by the snow, nothing remains. Is the point of layman Pang, or is this the point of the monk? Or perhaps it is neither? Which is it? How would you respond? I'll tell you ahead of time, throwing snowballs will not reach it. It's Ok for setcho. So how do you respond to Layman pangs beautfil snowflakes, they fall no place but here. To ignore it doesn't do it; to throw setcho's snowball doesn't do it; where do they fall obviously didn't do it. So how do you respond? Remember the pointer, "If you describe and discuss, you see ghosts in from of your skull. If you seek it in thought, you sit beneath black mountain. The bright shinging sun lights up the sky, the pure whispering wind circles the earth." Why does Setcho say in his verse, "All Pang's ability cannot grasp it. Gods and humans do not know it for themselves. In eyes and ears abolutely clean, not a speck of defilement, absolutely clean." He says it a second time. And Engo says, "the arrow points meet". Absolutely clean. "How?" the commentary says. Where would you see Layman Pang and Setcho? Then, "Even the blue-eyed Barbarian monk Bodhidharma would find it hard to discriminate." In this cleanliness, in this purity. That's the dharma — the virtue of purity, spotless, impeccable. Why? It fills the whole universe, there are no edges, there is nothing outside it, there is no place to stand to observe it, so there is no place to see it, to know it. There is no place to put this gigantic body.

[Part II, side 1]

So, with all of yesterdays discussion out of the way, we are ready to chew up this koan. And chewing up a koan is the only way to work on a koan. There are many superficial ways of working with a koan; you can just deal with some key point and zip on through, but a single koan is so rich and has so many layers and facets to it that is like nibbling at a full course mealing rather than sitting down and enjoying it, and consuming it. And I underline enjoying it, because that is part of what makes it work. Each one of these koans has a lot of zen history as part of it, it also deals with the keys points of the dharma. This particular koan also deals with the depth and clarity of the practioner that is involved in this dialogue. Recently, with the availability of English translations of some of the major collections, modern Zen practioners have a storehouse of information available that I didn't have when i was working on this case. There was nothing available in English except an in-house translation that had been mimeographed originally. There was no extra information at all. But in addition to the main case, which is the most important part of the koan, the Blue Cliff Record, Master Engo has added a pointer to it. Basically what he is doing in the pointer is telling you about the koan. It's like a prologue to a book which prepare you for the book. Each koan has a pointer. And then the main case has almost line by line footnotes. And the footnotes come from master Engo who is in the same lineage as Secho who collected the koans. It's like having an adept at your side whispering into your ear on every line. Then there is also a verse written by the collector of the koans, Setcho. IN the verse, he is also telling you about what is going on in the main case. This is the guy who selected the koans in the first place, and he is telling you what he thinks is most important. Then there are foot notes on the verse added by Engo. Again, the adept giving you one-liners to help make it clear. Then, if that weren't enough, he has also added a commentary, a discourse, on the main case, and a discourse on the verse. And to that, I add my bucket of Zen sewage, and that is problem why there are so many Zen practitioners and successors, everybody is trying to confuse you. The fact is, the truth of the koan is something that only you yourself can realize. It cannot be told to you. It cannot be explained to you. It can be explained, but what you have is a concept of the koan, an idea of what the koan is about, intellectualization of the koan. And if you want that, you can get three credits for a course on koans, but that is not going to transform your life in any way, or transform your way of perceiving yourself and the universe. The only way to do that is to chew it up and make it your own. One of the ways of chewing it up and making it your own is really put yourself into it, be intimate with it, see it, feel it, be it. What was it like, at that time in China? What was Yakuzans relationship to Pang, and to Basso. You learn a little bit about the teachers, and their different styles. All these teachers were very, very different. Some were eloquent, and their words were enough to illuminate the student. Teachers like Ummon and Joshu. They never used to hit or shout. Rinzai, on the other hand, was very powerful and used the shout and the hit to make a point. Other teachers used poetry, others estures. You will find what we call family style in different schools. Usually it went back to the very thing that had awakened the master when he was student.

So, in this particukar case, Pang you already know about his history, thsat he first went to Sekito. Ino, the sixth ancester, was a laymen also. He was a laymen when he became enlightened, he was alaymen when he received the transmission from the fifth ancester who told him to stay in hiding for sixteen years, because the fifth anceester was afraid he would be killed. He was illiterate, had no education, we was not even a BUddhist. And he became the sixth ancestor of Buddhism. And the pivotal key figure in Buddhism. Later, he became enlightened and started teaching, He had three major successors. One was Seigen, and and Nagaku. Nangaku was the teacher of the great master Basso, and Seigen was the teacher of the great master Sekito. Sekito was the root of both theSoto and the Rinzai lines. And Layman Pang studied with Sekito.

When he Sekito, he said to him, "What person does not keep company with the myriad things?" In other words, Who is independent of the ten thousand things, of all the Dharmas? No while he was still saying this, while he was talking, Sekito covered up his mouth and stopped him. That gesture caused an awakening in Pang. He wrote a verse, "My everyday affairs are no different/ only I myself naturally harmonize/ no place is grasped/ or rejected/ no where do I go for against/ who considers crimnson and purple honorable? The green mountains have not a speck of dust. Spiritual powers and their wonderous functioning: carrying water, chopping firewood." Crimson and purple were the colors of robes worn by royalty. He rejected that. Everyday affairs were his dharma. He stayed with Sekito a while and then went to Basso, in the other lineage. And again, he asked the same question, "What person does not keep company with the myriad things?" Basso says, "Wait until you can swallow all the water in the West river in one gulp, then I will tell you." The layman experienced again, an enlightenment experience. And again he made up a verse, and the verse said, "The ten directions, a common gathering, everyone studies not doing. This is the place were Buddhas are chosen. Minds empty, they return successful." He visited monasteries all over China, and eventually ended up visiting Yakuzan, a successor of Sekito, the person that he first experienced enlightenment with.

Yakusan was a successor of Sekito, the person P’ang first experienced enlightenment with. And when he was getting ready to leave, Yakusan, who thought very highly of P’ang, ordered ten of his monks to accompany P’ang to the gate. Now you can bet your life that it wasn’t an arbitrary choice, and that Zenkaku, the monk that asked the question, didn’t just happen to be one of the monks that went along. There was a good reason that Yakusan sent who he sent. And the footnotes that Engo adds to this help clarify a lot of what’s going on. Let me take it line by line for you. “When Layman P’ang took leave of Yakusan” - and the footnote says, “This old fellow is acting strange.” Taking leave of Yakusan - why is that strange? Why would it be strange, taking leave? Where would he go? “Yakusan ordered ten of his monks to escort him to the gate.” And the footnote says, “Yakusan does not take him lightly. What realm is this?” - that he sent ten monks to escort him to the gate. “Only a patched-robed monk who knows the whole thing could give P’ang this treatment.” What treatment? He asked ten people to escort him to the gate. What was the treatment? So obviously, something is going on. Right off you know something is going on. This is not a casual “Let’s say goodbye to the guests.” There’s dharma unfolding here, dharma drama unfolding.

While they’re walking out to the gate it happened to be snowing. So any good teacher worth their salt is going to take advantage of whatever situation they can. I’m sure Yakusan knew, he knew that P’ang was going to pull something, and he knew that one of these monks, Zenkaku probably, was the kind of guy that was going to challenge it, and that all these nine other monks should witness this. It would be good for their practice. And so, P’ang sees the snowflakes, and he stops, and they all stop and look at them. Now this is somebody that their teacher thinks very highly of, so highly that they were sent to escort him to the gate. This is an important teacher. And this is somebody that had studied with their dharma grandfather and was enlightened under their dharma grandfather. And not only that, he was enlightened under that great master Baso from the other lineage and carries the transmission documents of Baso. I’m sure they all knew this. So you see, the plot begins to thicken as you know all of these facts. It’s a very exciting thing, a koan.

So he points, and he says, “Beautiful snowflakes. They don’t fall in any other place.” And the footnote to that says, “He stirs up waves where there’s no wind.” Of course, what that means is, everything is perfect and complete where it is, but what teachers do is they create complications. That’s part of their job, creating complications. So we call it gouging out healthy flesh, or stirring up waves where there’s no wind. Creating problems where there aren’t any problems. Then it goes on to say, “The finger he points with has eyes.” In other words, this is a - the finger that he’s pointing with is an enlightened finger. It’s not a casual pointing. That’s it’s a dharma pointing. And then he goes on to say, “There’s an echo in this old fellow’s words.” In other words, there’s something that’s going to reverberate when he opens his mouth and says something. It’s not over. It doesn’t just fall flat or dissolve into the woodwork. It echoes, bounces back and forth again and again. Well, it’s been echoing for over a thousand years. It comes right down to us here in America. I mean, P’ang didn’t know we existed at his time. It’s still echoing, and will echo for generations to come.

Then the next line - so, “ ‘Beautiful snowflakes. They don’t fall in any other place.’ At this time one of the monks by the name of Zenkaku said, ‘Where do they fall?’ ” Now, there are a couple of ways to ask that question. “Where do they fall?” or “Beautiful snowflakes. They don’t fall anywhere else.” “Where do they fall? ” “They don’t fall anywhere else.” “ Where do they fall?” Or, “Where do they fall?” I think they’re written the same way, those two things, wouldn’t they be? Just those words with a question mark, right? There’s no other way to know it. But there’s a big difference between “Where do they fall?” and “Where do they fall?” It’s kind of - it can be taken a number of ways. If P’ang started explaining, it would be shame on P’ang. If P’ang said, “They fall here,” or “This is where they fall,” he would have lost it. It would have been the end of it. And what the footnote says on that - “Where do they fall?” The footnote says, “On target. He comes on following after P’ang. Of course, he climbed onto P’ang’s hook,” is what it says. I mean, whenever you’re going to teach, you gotta put your head out there. You know. You always, in order to even start teaching, opening your mouth and creating waves where there is no wind, you always run the risk of dealing with an adept, and immediately having your head chopped off. Like P’ang when he was with Sekito. “Is there any person that does not......(missing in turning over the tape) And he says before that, “Bringing it out, unique and alone.” There’s no one else on the face of the earth, and you bring it out, it’s still “dripping with water, dragging through the mud.” There’s no way to avoid it. The minute you bring it out, it’s covered with mud. It’s defiled. That’s what Layman P’ang did when he brought it out. That’s what Buddha did when he brought it out. Master Keizan said, “From beneath three feet of snow, a single plum branch extends.” That single plum branch is the Buddha’s enlightenment. In time, it’s covered with brambles. The brambles are the teachings. We transmit brambles from generation to generation. There’s no way to avoid it. To teach is to create brambles. But you need to understand that if you realize it from those brambles, the plum blossom lives and continues, generation after generation.

When knocking and resounding occur together,” nothing could be more beautiful than knocking and resounding. I talked about that yesterday. Or calling and answering. “Ananda!” “Yes, master!” The sound and the echo, one reality, one source, one thing. And what he says - “When knocking and resounding occur together, it’s still like a silver mountain and an iron wall.” How is it a silver mountain and an iron wall? This is where you eventually need to get to with this koan. It’s wonderful. “Beautiful snowflakes. They fall no place but here.” But we need to understand that that’s only half of it. What’s the other half? And when you realize the other half, know that neither completely embrace the whole truth.

So when he hit him, what he was showing him is the whole universe comes down to just this! It wasn’t a punishment. He was showing him something. It wasn’t, “Oh, you bad monk! Don’t you know better?” He was revealing something. There’s a kind of hit that is a punishment, and there’s a kind of hit that’s a teaching. And there’s a kind of hit that’s both. Clearly, the monk didn’t get it by his answer. The Layman tried explaining it. The monk backed off a little bit, and said, “How about you?” He had to hit him again. He had to respond to the imperative. He had to show - how else could he show him, “How about you?” How else could he show him about intimacy? You could explain it. You can go on explaining it forever. But as I’ve said a hundred times, we mix up the words and ideas that describe reality with the reality itself. We think because we can name something, we’ve got it. The word is an abstraction of something. The word “shout” is an abstraction of a reality. “Huuuuh!” is the reality. There’s a big difference when you say, “shout” and when you experience “shout”. You don’t need to translate the experience. Everybody understands it - dogs, cats, people. But the word is a different thing. It creates all kinds of mental images that are different for different people.

That’s what P’ang was trying to show him, that intimacy, whole body and mind intimacy. And no matter how much we explain, it’s still always an explanation, and you’ve got to take it that extra step. You’ve got to experience it for yourself. So I say, “Be Mu,” and you say, “What does it mean to be Mu?” And I say, “Every thought is Mu, every breath is Mu, every action is Mu. Mu sits, Mu walks, Mu talks, Mu drinks, Mu sleeps, Mu works. Mu fills the whole universe. Self is forgotten. Just Mu.” And still, you look for a meaning. What’s the meaning of Mu. What’s the meaning of meaning? It has no meaning whatsoever. Just be it.

You’ve got ot give something up to be it. You’ve got to give up your ideas about what it is. You’ve got to give up yourself. You’ve got to in fact forget the self to do it. Through the 2500 years of the evolution of this incredible dharma, every conceivable skillful means that could be used has been used. All for one purpose - to get us to realize that which is there, that’s always been there - that intimacy. They’ve used shouts and sticks and holding up flowers, and locking legs in a door, and throwing somebody off a bridge, and holding them underwater, and explaining and analysis and computation and it’s all for one purpose, all the upaya. All the liturgy, the Precepts, the sitting, the face-to-face teaching, the work practice, the art practice, the body practice, lay practice, monk practice - all of it one purpose and one purpose only - to realize where it all comes home.

In the verse he says, “The snowball hits. The snowball hits. Old P’ang’s ability cannot grasp it.” Of course it can’t be grasped. You’ve got to be separate from it to grasp it. There needs to be two things, the grasper and the thing that’s grasped. How could he possibly grasp it? The next line says, “Gods and humans do not know it for themselves.” Can’t know it. There’s no place to stand to separate yourself in order to know it. To know it you need a knower and the thing that the knower knows. This incredible dharma is not about knowing, understanding, believing. It’s about intimacy, realizing. “In the eyes, in the ears, absolutely clean.” Spotless. That’s the dharma. The dharma is the virtue of purity. Why do we call it the virtue of purity? It means that the dharma is the entire universe. There’s nothing outside of it. Impurity is something that doesn’t belong. It all belongs. There’s not a speck of dust, not an atom, not a molecule, that’s outside of this gigantic body that Layman P’ang was pointing to when he pointed to that snowflake. And just in case we didn’t hear it, he says it again. “Absolutely clean. Even the blue-eyed barbarian monk Bodhidharma, would find it hard to discriminate.” I would say, “Would find it impossible to discriminate.” There is no separation. No matter how hard we try to live our lives as if we were separated from everybody else, the fact is, there is no separation.

And Ummon said, “When you don’t see a single form, you should understand this is half the issue.” That’s what I was saying about this koan. Realize it. Realize it completely. Realize Mu. Realize it completely. And then understand that’s only part of it. There’s more. So throw it away and keep going. And ultimately, you’ll get to that place that all of the buddhas and ancestors speak of - annutara samyak sambhodi. And when you get there, thow that away and keep going. This dharma is endless. There’s no place that it stops.

So what you need to look at in this koan is how would you be an active participant. Put yourself in the place of Zenkaku. There you are, walking old Layman P’ang out of Yakusan’s monastery. He points to the snowflakes and says, “Beautiful snowflakes. They fall no place but here.” What do you say? What do you do? Let’s say you were stupid enough to say what Zenkaku said, “Where do they fall?” and Layman P’ang hit you. How do you respond? Let’s say you were dumb enought to ask the question a second time and he hit you a second time. Again, how would you respond? What have you got to say about Setcho and his comment, “I would have hit him with a snowball.” What ultimately is the point of the whole thing? What is he saying? Why did Setcho include this as a koan? Why do we include it as a koan? What is it that I would love for you to see when you see this koan? What is the other half, and what is the whole thing that comes together? On one side the absolute, and on the other side the relative. What is it where the two arrow points meet?

If you can see the bright sun shining on the snow, if you can feel the icy wind blowing across the face of the earth, then what more can be said? What more can anyone add? Layman P’ang, Dogen says, “Three feet of snow over the whole universe.” Nothing remains. That’s the intimacy of this koan. See that intimacy. Make it your own. Then throw it away and keep going. Ultimately, every single thing you do in this practice has to resolve itself into the moment to moment reality of your life. Everything you do, every breath you take, every action you make.

It's an incredible gift to have the opportunity to practice this dharma, to even know that it exists. Millions upon millions of humans have gone from cradle to grave without ever even knowing that it’s possible to put an end to suffering, that it’s possible to manifest their life in a way that’s in harmony with things, that nourishes rather than poisons. The fact that we have the opportunity to realize that - we shouldn’t take it lightly. We should accept it with gratitude, and practice it with the whole body and mind. And repay the efforts of all the buddhas and ancestors that have preceeded us by giving life to the buddha. And you do that by making it your own.

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The Blue Cliff Record Case 24
Isan and Iron Grindstone Lu

Master Engo’s Pointer
Stand on the summit of the highest peak and demons and outsiders cannot know you. Walk on the bottom of the deepest sea and even the Buddha’s eye cannot catch sight of you. Even if your eyes are like shooting stars and your intellect is like flashing lightning, still you won’t avoid being like the spirit tortoise dragging his tail leaving traces. At this point, what is proper? To test I site this old case. Listen.

The Main Case
Iron Grindstone Lu arrived at Isan’s, Isan said, “Old cow, so you’ve come.” The Grindstone said, “Tomorrow there’s a great communal feast on Taizan, are you going to go teacher?” Isan relaxed his body and lay down. The Grindstone immediately left.

Master Setcho’s Verse
Once riding an iron horse she entered the fortress.
The edict comes down reporting that the six nations are cleared.
Still holding the golden whip she questions the returning traveler.
In the depths of the night, who will go along to walk the royal road?

In yesterday’s koan, we made reference to Iron Grindstone Lu doing dharma combat with Shiko. Today I picked one of the koans from the Blue Cliff Record that has to do specifically with Iron Grindstone Lu. Her name in Japanese is pronounced Ryu Ketsuma. Ryu was her family name, in Chinese that’s pronounced Lu. So we translate Iron Grindstone and left the Chinese name Lu, Iron Grindstone Lu. Ketsu means iron, and ma means mill. So it‘s a mill that grinds iron instead of grinding wheat or rice. She earned this nickname because of her ability in dharma combat. She was known throughout that part of China during that period of time as being a terrible opponent in dharma combat, that would just grind up any of the monks that came to challenge her. She was a successor of Master Isan, and Isan was part of the lineage of Yakujo. Yakujo received the transmission from Baso. So Yakujo was one of the 84 enlightened disciples of Baso, and Yakujo transmitted to several people. He also transmitted to Obaku, who became the teacher of Rinzai and the beginning of the Rinzai line. He also transmitted to Isan who along with his dharma successor Kyogen, began another line that continued for many generations. They were both part of what we call the five houses of Zen in China at that period of time. Another one of those houses was the Tozan school, or the Soto school. Both the Rinzai and Soto lineages are part of our monastery here. Those are the only two that continued through time and are still alive and well to this day.

Isan was also probably, one of the best known teachers of that period of time, he had some fifty four people that he transmitted to. It was a period of time that Zen was in it’s golden age. I‘ve often wondered why. Other times in the history of Zen if a teacher could find only one succesor would feel very fortunate. Down to the present day usually teachers have only two or three successors at the most. Some of them, but it’s very unusual may have as many as six or seven. But during that time, fifty or a hundred were not unusual. Isan had fifteen hundred monks living at his monastery. The monastery that he had was on Isan mountain, that’s how most of these masters got their names, they took the name of the mountain that they lived on. The year was 848, so it was the ninth century, and by imperial decree Buddhism was reestablished after eight years of fierce prosecution. That used to go on a lot. The years that Buddhism was in China. It’s even happened just recently, I think I mentioned it just recently, so one period of time if the emperor happened to be a Buddhist, then Buddhism was in and everyone was a Buddhist. Buddhism flourished, and the emperor would build monasteries and some Zen master would become the National Teacher and have the ear of the emperor, and train the emperor's children and that's about as close they got to right action, being able to influence the Emperor's decisions. And then that emperor would leave and a new emperor would come in who was a Taoist, and all of the Buddhist monasteries would be destroyed and all the Buddhist monks chased out back into lay practice or beheaded in some cases and the Taoist's would be back in, back and forth it would go. But somehow that continuity remained. And the reason it remained was that what was transmitted was not what's in the text. So you can burn monasteries, you can burn the sutras, you can burn the records of the masters. What's transmitted is alive and goes from mind to mind so you can't see it. It goes from generation to generation, from person to person. In fact everything else is it's context, a matrix that's created so that the mind to mind transmission can happen. Every teacher has a teacher, and although we realize it ourselves, there's nothing that the teacher can give you, it's already there that which is to be realized, still in the Zen lineage, the approval of the teacher is a requirement so that you determine the authenticity of a lineage by tracing it back. And it's all documented. It's not that it's not documented, it is documented after the fact, after the mind to mind transmission, when transmission has already occurred, when the documents verifying it have already been passed on. That's what's kept it alive, that's what's kept it very vital. Each generation each teacher has the burden of responsibility to manifest the dharma according to the circumstances they encounter. So the dharma always fills the vessel that contains it. It's not like trying to take something that was written 2000 years ago and getting it to fit in the 20th century. It fits because it was transmitted to a 20th century person.

This koan takes place about five years before Isan's death at age 83, so he was in his late seventies at the time of this encounter. He had built a temple on Isan mountain with his own hands. He was part of what was known as Denhai monks, monks who cultivated the fields and raised cattle. That was a tremendous departure from the original teachings in India. In India, the Vinaya for monks, which is still mantained in the Hinayana tradition, was that a monk doesn't work. It's very much the same in Hasidism where the devout Hasidic Jew studies the scriptures, and devote themselves completely to them, it's almost a form of monasticism, and doesn't work. So it was in Buddhism, and to this day Theravadan monks don't work. The lay practitioners do the work and gain merit by doing the work for them. So they're not allowed to grow their own food, they beg for their food, so to be a mendicant is an important part of the process. In Hinayana Buddhsim that remains true, but in Mahayana Buddhism, particularly when it went to China. At first the Mahayana Buddhists also did the same thing, they didn't work, so long as there was a way to support them. But as the monasteries started to be located in the very far reaching regions of China in the mountain ranges, there were no villages to go to to beg. The winters were very very severe so in order to survive, they needed to grow their own food, they needed to cultivate and work in the fields, and that began with Yakujo, Isan's teacher. Yakujo's very famouns for saying, "A day of no work, a day of no food." That was the basic rule of his temple. If you didn't work, you didn't eat, because these monks didn't want to work. You know that was breaking the rules of the Vinaya. But of course the Vinaya was also transmitted mind to mind. In each generation the teacher needs to be able to respond to that Vinaya in a way that's appropriate to the circumstances. There's a lot more to the Vinaya than the surface that appears as the rules, the same with the precepts. People looking at the precepts, reading the sixteen precepts think that what you read is what they are, but it goes much beyond that. And in fact how far beyond that is not even possible to understand until one's training is virtually completed, it's at the end of formal training, after, fifteen or twenty years of training, that we take up the precepts as koans. One hundred and twenty koans to test one's understanding of the precepts. The precepts are also transmitted as well as given in the ceremony. Given as an act of faith in the beginning of one's training. They're actually transmitted as part of the transmision of the dharma at the end of training. So Yakujo made that rule, and in fact when he became to old to work, his monks felt sorry for him because he was such an old man, they didn't want him to work. They begged him to stop working. He said, "No, the rule is, a day of no work, a day of no food." So they took his tools and they hid them, and he stopped eating. So finally they had to give him the tools back, and he kept working until the day he died.

And Isan being a part of that lineage went off and started a temple on Isan Mountain, and they cultivated the fields and also raised cattle. I guess the cattle were raised for food, for milk, for food, whatever, as well as the cultivation of the fields. So all of their sustenance came from the mountain, whatever they could get from working with that.

Now Isan, because I guess cattle were very dominant; if you went to his monastery you probably stepped over tons of buffalo dung to get to the main gate, there were grazing cattle all over the place. Buffalo were very much up front in his way of teaching, I'm sure it came up again and again, just like when we had a gourmet deli, that would always come up in dharma talks here. It was always being related to the circimstances the students find themselves in. So one of his favorite koans that he would say to his monks was that in many years from now, in two hundred years, at the front gate of this monastery I will be reborn as a buffalo. And on the side of the buffalo will be written, 'This is monk Isan.' If you call it a buffalo, it's monk Isan. If you call it monk Isan, it's a buffalo. What will you call it. It's one of the two hundred koans that students need to work with here at Doshinji. Now obviously, old Iron Grindstone Lu, who was his successor must have passed through that old koan of the buffalo, and I think that's why he personally called her 'old buffalo cow.' In some of the translations they say 'old female buffalo.' For obvious reasons in English, calling someone an old cow is derogatory. Calling someone an old bull is not, so some of the translations say 'old female buffalo.' But you should understand the point of it, in Chinese that wouldn't be a derogatory statement. And that's what the word means in Chinese, it means cow. It's a different character for cow than it is for the male buffalo.

So Iron Grindstone Lu who had now succeeded Isan and had built a hermitage on an adjoining peak of Isan Mountain came to visit him. Master Engo, in speaking of the nun, Iron Grindstone said that she was like, "Stone struck spark, like a lightning flash. Hesitate and you lose your body and your life. In the path of meditation if you get to the most essential place, where are there so many things? This meeting of adepts is like seeing horns on the other side of the wall and knowing immediately that there's an ox. Or seeing smoke on the other side of the mountain and immediately knowing there's a fire. When pushed, they move. When pressed they turn about." That is they fuction freely, both of them. Both of them are adepts, that's the thing to see. That the complete merging of parent and child, child and parent had been complete with these two.

Iron Grindstone Lu had studied for a long time, her active edge was sharp and dangerous. She built a hut a few miles from Isan Mountain and one day went to call on Isan. When he saw her coming, he said, "Old cow, so you've come." The Grindstone said, "Tomorrow there's a great communal feast on Mount Tai. Are you going to go teacher?" Isan relaxed his body and lay down whereupon Grindstone left. Engo said, "All of you look! Throughout they seem to be conversing, but this is not Zen neither is it Taoism. Can it be understood by calling it unconcerned?" Is that what his reaction was. In one of the first translations of this koan, one that was produced many, many years ago, that's what the translator said, that he was unconcerned. That's not what the point of this koan is. There's a lot more to be seen.

Now Isan Mountain was over six hundred miles from Mount Tai. How then did Iron Grindstone Lu want Isan to go to the feast. They didn't have planes in those days. It's like one of the students from here coming to me and saying, "Daido, in a half hour there's going to be a party at ZCLA in Los Angeles, are you going to go?" So what was the meaning? Engo says, "This old lady understands Isan's conversation. Fibre coming, thread going. One letting go, one gathering in. They answer back to each other like two mirrors reflecting each other, without any reflecting image to be seen. Action to action they complement each other, phrase to phrase they accord." This is a perfect example, this dialog, of that completion between teacher and disciple. Two mirrors face to face, reflecting with no image in between. Why is there no image in between? Why is it that they can't be seen by the Buddha's and ancestors? Why is it that the eye cannot see itself? When you are the thing itself, there's no separation. You need to be outside of something in order to see it. You need to separated in order to see it. In true intimacy, there's no knowing. There's no seeing. There's no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind. These two are one reality, they function freely. The fibre coming, the thread going, in sewing. One letting go, rolling out, one gathering in. Letting go and gathering in. Letting go is where the teacher or the adept is positive, nourishing, giving, manifesting in the phenomenal world, in the relative. Holding back, they're not there, they take away. One rolls out, the other gathers in, the other rolls out, the other gathers in. It's in complete harmony. It's like a beautiful dance, a beautiful dharma dance. They complement each other. Phrase to phrase they accord. Then Engo says, "People these days can be poked three times and not turn their heads. But this old lady couldn't be fooled one little bit. No means is this an emotional view based on mundane truth. Like a bright mirror on a stand. Like a bright jewel in the palm of the hand. When a foreigner comes, the foreigners reflect it. When a native comes, the native relects it. It's that she knows there's something transcendent, that's why she acts like this." That bright mirror on its stand is the mirror of samadhi. So whatever is there, it reflects it. Doesn't interpret it, analyze it, judge it, characterize it, understand it, file it, store it, manipulate it, love it or hate it. It reflects it perfectly. The perfect mirror of samadhi.

This kind of dharma combat constantly went on during China's golden age of Zen. There were these constant pilgrimmages that monks would make, from monastery to monastery. Testing, sharpening their understanding. Perfecting, going further. What's the limit? How far can you go? There's no edge, there's no boundary. Where's the edge of the universe? If you think there's an edge, then what is it that's just beyond the edge? You too are just like that.

Engo said, "Right now you're content to understand this is unconcern. " This is Isan's lying down. Another master said, "Don't take having concerns as not having concerns. Time and time again, concern is born of unconcern. If you can immerse yourself into this and penetrate through, you'll see that Isan and Iron Grindstone Lu acting in this way is the same sort as ordinary people's conversation. People are often hindered by words, that's why they don't understand. Only an intimate acquaintance can understand them thoroughly." Intimate acquaintance means, realizing that Buddha mind. "Time and time again, concern is born of unconcern." A nice way of understanding compassion. We think of compassion as doing good, but that's not what compassion is. Doing good is doing good. Compassion is quite different. It functions freely with no sense of separation between the doer and the thing that the doer is doing. It happens like the way you grow your hair, it just happens. If someone falls, you pick them up. It's the same intimacy in which their is no knowing. There's no separation. It comes out of wisdom. Wisdom is the realization of no separation. Compassion is the activity that comes out of that realization. So it's very different from doing good. Tokusan's sixty blows was an act of grandmotherly compassion. Not a punishment. Rinzai's fist, an act of compassion. Desperately these teachers wanted their disciples to realize themselves, make themselves free. To realize the inherent freedom that's their very life just as it is. So can this be understood by calling it unconcerned? "When letting go they both let go. When rolling in they both roll in." We call this in Zen training the merging of perspectives.

In the footnote to this Main Case when Iron Grindstone said, "Tomorrow there's a great communal feast on Taizan, are you going to go teacher." The footnote says, 'The arrow is sharp to no purpose. In China they beat the drum. In Korea they dance. The letting go was too fast, the gathering in was too slow.' 'In China they beat the drum. In Korea they dance.' Daido drinks sake, Kyodo gets drunk. No separation.

Master Setcho's Verse

Once riding an iron horse she enters the fortress.
The edict comes down reporting that the six nations are cleared.
Still holding the golden whip she questions the returning traveler.
In the depths of the night who will go along to walk the royal road.

This is a very very clear verse, some of them are difficult to follow. 'Once riding an iron horse she enters the fortress.' This is praising Iron Grindstone Lu, coming as she did to Isan. 'The edict comes down reporting that the six nations are cleared.' This is praising the way Isan questioned her. 'Still holding the golden whip she questions the returning traveler.' This is praising Grindstone saying "Tomorrow there's a great communal feast on Taizan, are you going to go teacher?" In the depths of the night, who will go along to walk the royal road?' This praises Isan relaxing his body and Iron Grindstone immediately turning and leaving.

Once Seppo commented on this case with verse. He said:

Standing on the summit of the highest peak, unknown to demons and outsiders.

Walking on the bottom of the deepest sea unseen even by the Buddha's eyes.

That's referring to one of the ranks of Master Tozan, the five ranks of Tozan. It refers to a very highly developed state of understanding. While on the mountain peak manifesting in the market place. While in the market place, alone on the mountain peak. The merging of absolute and relative.

A monk once asked Seppo, "When Isan said, 'Old cow, so you've come.' What was his inner meaning?" Seppo said, "In the depths of the white clouds the golden dragon leaps." The golden dragon of course is Iron Grindstone, an enlightened being. The dragon always functions in the clouds, flies with the clouds. The monk said, "When Iron Grindstone Lu said, 'Tomorrow there's a great communal feast on Taizan, are you going to go teacher?' What was her inner meaning?" Seppo said, "In the heart of the blue waves the jade rabbit bolts." The monk said, "When Isan immediately lay down, what was his inner meaning?" Seppo said, "Old and worn out, decrepit and lazy. Days without concern, lying idly deep in sleep facing the blue mountains." Is this unconcerned?

It's said that Iron Grindstone was fully equipped with the seven items of a warrior. The seven items of a warrior are also the seven items of a teacher. What those seven items are: One is great capacity and great function. The second is swiftness of wit and eloquent mind. The third is wonderous spirituality of speech and movement, that is being able to manifest live words not dead words. Fourth an active edge to kill or to give life. To kill is to have someone understand the absolute basis of reality. To give life is to show it, manifest it in the ten thousand things. Fifth, wide learning and broad experience. The sixth, clarity of mirroring awareness, that perfect great mirror of samadhi. And seven the freedom to appear or disappear. That is to let go or to hold fast. That is to give and nourish or to take away and disappear.

The question; 'what did Isan mean when he said, "Old buffalo cow so you've come."' The footnote to that statement says, 'Check a probing pole, a reed shade, where should you look to see the obscurity.' Probing pole, what was Iron Grindstone's purpose in asking tfeh question, "There's a great communal feast on Taizan, are you going to go teacher?" The footnote said, 'In China they beat the drum, in Korea they dance.' "Isan relaxed his body and laid down." The footnote says, 'The arrow got him. Where will you see Isan.' The Grindstone immediately left. The footnote says, 'She's gone. She saw the opportunity and acted. How will you understand this?'

We tend to look at our practice in a very abstract way. We tend to equate the practice with the monastery. Some kind of a sanctuary that's removed from the world. We come to the monastery, we're quiet, we're gentle. We bow to each other, we go back out into the world and we push and we shove. So on the left hand we have the monastery, and the left hand we have the world. We live in a period of time where self-centerdness is the key. Overwhelming self-centeredness. The "me" generation. I'm worth it. It's kind of interesting, there's an ad that appears on television now continually for the lottery, it shows people responding to the obvious question, "What would you do if you won, several million dollars, ten million dollars in a lottery?" And it's very interesting the responses. One person's going to buy the company they work for and fire the boss. Somebody else is going to buy his and her's Maseratis. Somebody else is going to buy and island and on and on. It's kind of interesting, they're all self-centered answers. It's not so much that, this is not a sampling of the public. Because they're all actors that are responding, it's obvious. But the thing that's interesting to me is that these companies don't advertize things unless a lot of research is done. And what that research indicated, what people wanted to do with their lottery money is self-centered. Nobody talked about helping the poor, of housing the homeless, or donating some of it to AIDS research, or any of the ten thousand needs that exist out there. And the reason, they didn't talk about it is that that doesn't appeal to the public. The research indicated that if you want people to take a chance on the lottery, then you're going to have to give them very self-centered motivations in order to do it. It's just like all the other advertizing it's self-centered. And the reason the advertizing is self-centered, is it's a perfect mirror of what's going on. If you want to understand a country or a society, look at the advertizing. Having worked in that field for many years I know. A lot of research goes into it. They know their customers. And they know them well. What does it say about this time and place that we exist in? What does it say to us when we realize that seven people running for public office in New York City are under indictment, two of them convicted felons. They're about to take public office, about to be given public trust. What's wrong when we realize that in business there's incredible corruption, in politics incredible corruption, in religion incredible corruption. Where have we failed? And as I've mentioned before when you really look at it, what it's about is power. And the illusion that what power is, is money, the ability to manipulate and control people, things, and in a sense from a mundane point of view that's what power is. But real power, spiritual power, is the realization of the self, is the freedom that comes out of that realization. The freedom that was manifested with these two adepts, when you see the point of what this dialog was between the two of them. It's a period of time that the relationship's disintergrating, family is slowly becoming obsolete, compassion is almost non-existent. What can we do?

It's really important to keep asking, to keep questioning. But ask yourself, and answer yourself. That's what zazan is about. Be master of yourself. It's the same with this koan, where do you see the point of this koan? The answer is within the questions themselves. Don't separate yourself from Iron Grindstone or Isan. The answer is within yourself, in your life. Not some abstraction or some esoteric doctrine, but this very life itself.

Please use the remainder of this sesshin as if your life depended on it. Don't waste a moment of it, because your life does depend on it. To enter this incredible way is probably the most imortant thing that any one of us will ever do with our lives. It goes far beyond mundane power, position, authority, money. It has to do with very stuff that life itself is made of. So throw yourself into it, totally. Into your zazen, into the chanting, into the bowing, into the work, into sesshin and unify the mind. Don't hold back. Take a chance. Let go. Let go of whatever you're holding on to. That's the way you practice the edge. Life is a precious gift. It doesn't need to be consumed in pain and suffering. It's perfect and it's complete, lacking nothing, just as it is. And if you haven't realized that truth yet, this is the time to do it. Each one of us are fully equipped Buddhas. Fully equipped human beings. There's nothing that you need that you don't have there. You have it. It needs to be realized.

5 Apr 2023
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