Saturday, 2 January 2016

Tanxia Tianran [W-G: Tan-hsia T’ien-jan / J: Tanka Tennen]

               One winter’s night, Tanxia Tianran took shelter at an empty temple in the capital.  The weather was very bitter, and Tianran struggled to keep warm.  Eventually he took down one of the three wooden Buddhas he found on an altar and broke it into pieces which he used to make a fire.  Noticing smoke coming from the temple, the resident priest came in to see what was causing it and found Tianran contentedly warming his hands before the burning Buddha. 
                “What have you done!” the priest exclaimed in outrage. “This is sacrilege!  Have you no respect for the Holy Buddha?”  
                Without answering the priest, Tianran began to poke about in the embers with a stick. 
                “And now what are you doing?” the priest demanded. 
                “I’m searching the ashes for the relics, the Buddha’s bones.” 
                “You’re a madman!” the priest exclaimed.  “What bones or relics would you find from a wooden Buddha!”
                “In that case,” Tianran said, “could I have another of those Buddhas there for my fire?”
[Tanxia Tianran – Zen Masters of China: 103-05]

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