Thursday, 20 February 2020

Shide [W-G: Shih-te / J: Jittoku]


                Shide was Hanshan’s companion and fellow poet. His name means “picked up.”  He had been an abandoned orphan, found in the forest by a monk who heard him crying.  The monk brought the infant back to the Guoqing temple, where, when he was older, he was given work doing general cleaning and maintenance.  Once, when he was told to clean the meditation hall, the monks found him seated companionably in front of the statue of the Buddha, helping himself to the fruit which had been left on the altar as an offering, as if sharing a snack with a friend.
                He became friends with Hanshan and would save leftovers which he set aside in a hidden place for him to pick up during his visits to the monastery.

[Shide – Zen Masters of China: 153-61; The Story of Zen: 246]

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Hanshan [W-G: Han-shan / J: Kanzan]

                 As a result of a riding accident, Hanshan sustained an injury to his foot which left him slightly disabled.  This physical impediment prevented him from advancing in the Chinese civil service, and he was unable to rise beyond the lowly position of clerk. Disenchanted with the established traditions of his day, he gave up his office, left his wife and child, and went into the mountains, where he found shelter in caves and make-shift huts.
                His retreat was near the monastery at Guoqing, which he visited from time to time, scrounging scraps left by the monks at meal time.  It is said that he would walk the halls of the temple talking to himself during the monks’ periods of meditation.  When his behavior became too disruptive, he would be was asked to leave. Then he would clap his hands and laugh as he made his way back to his cave.
                He became a beloved figure in Chinese lore and is considered an embodiment of the Chan (Zen) spirit because of the poems he wrote, sometimes leaving them on the trunks of trees or on the faces of rock.

[Hanshan – Zen Masters of China: 153-61; The Story of Zen: 246, 345]

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Damei Fachang [W-G: Ta-mai Fa-ch’ang / J: Daibai Hojo]



                Fachang asked Mazu, “What is the Buddha?”
                Mazu told him, “The mind just as it is is the Buddha.”
                The statement was sufficient to bring Fachang to awakening. 
                Fachang secluded himself in a straw-roofed hermitage on Damei—or Plum—Mountain. 
                When Fachang had been living in the mountains for many years, Mazu became curious about how his practice was progressing.  He sent a student to seek out Fachang and ask him why he was living in isolation. 
                “My Master, Mazu, told me that this very mind, just as it is, is Buddha.  And for that reason I’ve made my dwelling here in these mountains.”
                “But our master no longer teaches that,” the student said.  “Now he says, ‘no mind, no Buddha’.”
                “Mazu is a senile old dotard who enjoys bewildering others,” Fachang replied. “He can say whatever he wishes, but I still say this very mind is Buddha.”
                When the student returned to Mazu and reported Fachang’s disrespectful comment, Mazu was unoffended, noting, “The plum, indeed, is ripe.”        

Damei Fachang – Zen Masters of China: 148-50

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Shigong Huicang [W-G: Shih-kung Hui-ts’ang / J: Sekkyo Ezo]

                One day after Shigong Huicang had been training for a while, Mazu Daoyi visited him while he was at work in the kitchen.  “What are you doing?” the master asked.
                “I am tending an ox,” Shigong informed him.
                “Are you now?  How do you attend to this ox?”
                “If it strays from the path, I pull it back by the nose without a moment’s delay.”
                “That is certainly how to attend to it,” Mazu admitted.

[Shigong Huicang – Zen Masters of China: 146-48]

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Panshan Baoji [W-G: P’an-shan Pao-chi / J: Banzan Hoshaku]

                  Panshan Baoji was walking through a market, and, as he passed the butcher’s stall, he happened to overhear a woman speaking. “I must prepare a meal for a very special guest,” she told the butcher.  “Please show me the very best piece of meat you have for sale here.”
                “All the wares I have for sale here are the best,” the butcher replied.  “You can’t find one piece which is not the best.”
                Hearing these words, Panshan came to awakening.
                Later he would explain: “You can’t seek it from others.  No one can show it to you.”
[Panshan Baoji – Zen Masters of China: 144-45]


Thursday, 16 January 2020

Guizong Zhichang [W-G: Kuei-tsung Chih-ch’ang / J: Kisu Chijo]



                 A student of the sutras once visited Guizong Zhichang while he was working the soil in the garden with a hoe.  Just as the student drew near, he saw Guizong use the hoe to cut a snake in half, killing it in violation of the Buddhist precept not to take any form of life.
                “I’d heard that Guizong was a crude and ill-mannered man, but I didn’t believe it until now,” the student remarked.
                “Is it you or I who’s crude or refined?” Guizong asked.
                “What do you mean by ‘crude’?” the student asked.
                Guizong held the hoe upright.
                “And in that case, what do you mean by ‘refined’?” the student asked.
                Guizong made a motion as if cutting a snake in half.
                “And yet,” the student said, “if you had allowed it, it would have gone away on its own.”
                “If I’d allowed it to go away on its own, how would you have seen me chop the snake in two?”

[Guizong Zhichang – Zen Masters of China: 143-44]

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Dazhu Huihai [W-G: Tai-chu Hui-hai / J: Daiju Ekai]

                One day an expert in the Vinaya (the rules governing the conduct of the members of the sangha) asked Dazhu Huihai, “When one seeks to follow the Dao, is there a particular manner in which he should behave?”
                “There is,” Dazhu said. 
                “Please tell me about it,” the other requested.
                “When one is hungry, one eats; when one is tired, one sleeps.”
                “But everyone does that,” the Vinaya master complained.  “Your behavior isn’t different from that of commoners.”
                “They’re not the same at all,” Dazhu said.
                “In what way are they different?”
                “When most people eat, they don’t just eat; their minds are preoccupied with a thousand different fantasies.  When they sleep, they don’t just sleep; their minds are filled with any number of idle thoughts.”

[Dazhu Huihai – Zen Masters of China: 142-43]