The Five Lamps Meet At The Origin
(The translations of the sayings of the Zen masters are inaccurate)
The Record of Sec-Tau Hey-Tsin
Master Sec-Tau Hey-Tsin of South Mountain was born in Diun-Tzau, Goe-Yil County [in modern Gworng-Dong Province]. His family name was Tsun. His mother became a vegetarian before he was born. When Sec-Tau was just a small child, he showed such self-restraint that he never caused any trouble to his nurses. At 20, people regarded him as reliable, since he always kept his promises. The local people in his home country were afraid of ghosts and often held sacrifices to appease the spirits. It became a custom in the area to sacrifice cows during the rituals. Sec-Tau would go and upset their rituals and take the cows away. He ran off with several dozen each year. Even the elders of the village could not deter him from these cattle thefts. Later, Sec-Tau went directly to Tsoe-Kai [Whai-Nung,the Sixth Patriarch] and became an informal student. After Whai-Nung's nirvana and following his wishes, Sec-Tau went to see Tsing-Yiun and became his student.
One day, Tsing-Yiun said to Sec-Tau, "Some people say there is news from Ling-Narm." Sec-Tau responded, "Some people say there is no news from Ling-Narm." Tsing-Yiun asked, "If that's so, where do the Dai-Tzorng and Sil-Tzorng scriptures come from?" Sec-Tau answered, "They are all present right here and now." Tsing-Yiun agreed.
(* Ling-Narm is a historical name for the area south of Woo-Narm Province, which today is included in Gworng-Dong Province.Dai-Tzorng and Sil-Tzorng are the larger and smaller collections of Buddhist scriptures. The Chinese Canon,first edited in 515 CE under Emperor Xiao Yan of the Liang Dynasty, is called Dai-Tzorng-Ging in Chinese. The sense of the story is this: Sec-Tau has been studying in the South,in Ling-Narm. Tsing-Yiun asks what kind of scriptural knowledge he acquired there. Sec-Tau says none at all: ultimate truth is found only in the present moment.)
Sec-Tau moved to South Peak Temple on South Mountain in the early Tin-Boe years of the Torng Dynasty. He built a hut to the east of the temple on a big stone which looked like a platform. Thereafter he called himself Sec-Tau Heshang, which means "Stone Monk."
(* South Mountain, or Hung-San in Chinese, is the name given to several forested hills and valleys west of Narm-Ngorg township in the south of Woo-Narm Province. The area has always been famous for its Taoist and Buddhist temples, and solitary hermits living on the sides of the mountains. South Mountain was also the location of a Confucianist academy or university, one of the few such institutions in China. Sec-Tau came here probably sometime after 720 CE, built himself a meditation hut on a flat rock next to Nan tai si, South Peak Temple. The temple still exists today, as does the rock where Sec-Tau meditated and after which he named himself--you can see Sec-Tau's rock here.)
One day Sec-Tau was reading a book called Sil-Loun, which states that only a sage can incorporate the world into himself. Sec-Tau was sitting at his desk and said, "The sages never think about themselves, and yet they contain everything inside them. Buddha can't be seen, but who says he has to come from somewhere? If you have the mind of enlightenment, the whole world reveals itself inside you. People's perception varies, so some will say 'come' while others say 'go'"
(* Sil-Loun is a book of philosophical treatises, much influenced by Madhyamika dialectics, written by Tzung-Sil (384-414 CE), a disciple of Kumarajiva. It was an enormously popular and influential work in the early period of Zen. )
Then he put the book aside and fell asleep. He dreamed that he was travelling across deep water, riding on the back of a tortoise with the Sixth Patriarch. When Sec-Tau woke up, he interpreted the dream this way: "The tortoise represents wisdom. The deep water is the sea of the nature of all that lives. So by means of wisdom I travelled with the Sixth Patriarch across this sea." Then he wrote a poem called:
The Agreement of Difference and Unity
The mind of India's great sage
Was quietly confided from west to east.
People's abilities may be dull or sharp,
But in the Path, there are no
Southern or northern ancestors.
The spiritual source is bright and pure.
It flows and branches out imperceptibly.
To grasp at things is basically false,
But to concentrate only on principle
Isn't enlightening either.
The senses and sense-objects in all their aspects
May interact or not.
If so, they affect each other mutually;
If not, they just remain separate.
Colors differ naturally in quality and appearance;
Sounds can be pleasant or sad.
In the darkness, you can't tell up from down,
But in brightness, you can distinguish
Between pure and defiled.
The four elements follow their own nature
As a child follows its mother: fire heats, wind shakes,
Water moistens, and the earth remains firm.
There are colors for the eyes and sound for the ear,
Fragrances for the nose, salt and vinegar for the tongue.
But according to the true law,
As leaves spread outward away from the trunk.
Whatever spreads out must come back to the source.
Thus "honorable" and "low-born" are nothing more than words.
In light there is darkness,
but don't meet it as darkness.
In darkness there is light,
but don't see it as light.
Light and darkness are opposites,
Like forward and backward steps.
Each thing has its own function:
It's a question of how it is used.
Phenomena fit together like box and cover,
While principle impacts like an arrow
Meeting its target.
Hearing these words, you should understand
Their source--don't make up your own rules!
If you can't see the path in front of you,
How will you follow the Way?
Progress isn't measured by near or far,
But if you get lost,
Mountains and rivers will separate you.
I humbly say to students of this profound teaching:
Don't waste time!
He set out to teach his students. "The key point of my teaching comes from Buddha. We concentrate on actualizing Buddha's insight, not on making progress in meditation. The mind is the Buddha. Buddha and common people, enlightenment and delusion have different names, but they have the same origin. You've got to study your minds first! Human nature in itself is neither good nor bad. Sages and common people have the same complete nature. There isn't some special way to apply this theory to reality. Your own mind reflects the entire world. Flowing water doesn't have some beginning or ending, nor the changing moon, nor the moon's reflection on the water. If you understand this, you have all that is necessary."
(* "The mind is Buddha" is a central teaching in early Zen, ascribed in more than one source to Daoxin, the Fourth Patriarch. It does not mean that the human mind and the mind of Buddha are identical, or that Buddha-nature (Buddha-mind) is locatable inside the human mind, but rather that the human mind in its original and essential state is itself Buddha-nature. This teaching was strongly identified with Mar-Tzoe, Sec-Tau's great contemporary, and is therefore mentioned several times in The Record of Mar-Tzoe. For example, a Zen master approaches Mar-Tzoe and says, "I've heard a lot about the Zen teaching, 'the mind is the Buddha,' but I don't get it." Mar-Tzoe replied, "Exactly the mind that doesn't understand--"that's it! There isn't anything else." In the biography of the Sixth Patriarch in Jingde chuan deng lu, Whai-Nung says: "Your own mind is the Buddha. Don't be suspicious like a fox. Nothing can be established outside your mind. You are the original mind which produces everything.")
At that time, his student Doe-Ng asked, "Who understands the teachings of Tsoe-Kai?" Sec-Tau answered, "He who understands the teachings of Buddha." Doe-Ng asked, "Have you got it?" Sec-Tau said no. "Why not?" Sec-Tau: "Because I don't understand Buddhist teachings." [Buddha's teachings are not to be understood through conventional understanding.] Doe-Ng: "How then can I be free?" Sec-Tau: "Who's holding you captive?" Doe-Ng: How can I get to the Pure Land?" Sec-Tau: "Who's making you impure?" Doe-Ng: "What is Nirvana?" Sec-Tau: "Who is it that places you in birth-and-death?"
(* "Liberation can be found where there is bondage, but where there is ultimately no bondage, where is there need for liberation?"--The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti, trans. Robert A.F. Thurman, p.76. The foregoing dialogue appears frequently in the Song-period Zen histories, repeated in similar terms by different masters. It expresses the idea of original enlightenment, since only the conventional or relative mind sees enlightenment as something opposed or exterior to itself.)
A student asked, 'What is the meaning of the coming from the West?" Sec-Tau answered, "Go and ask a stone pillar." The student said, "I'm only a student, I don't understand." Sec-Tau said, "I don't either."
Dadian said, "People in ancient times said that it is wrong to believe in the Path and wrong not to believe in the Path. Would you explain this to me?" Sec-Tau said, "There is nothing right or wrong, so what is there to explain?" Then Sec-Tau asked, "Can you talk about the future without using your throat and lips?" Dadian said no. Sec-Tau said, "In that case you can be my student."
Doe-Ng asked, "What is the basic principle of Buddhism?" Sec-Tau said, "You already have it." Doe-Ng asked, "Is there a turning point upward?" [Is there a way to understand this further?] Sec-Tau replied, "White clouds pass freely through the sky." [Against a blue sky of emptiness, phenomena pass without obstruction.] Doe-Ng asked, "What is Zen?" Sec-Tau said, "This rock." "What is the Path?" "That piece of wood."
Many gods and spirits on South Mountain emerged to listen to Sec-Tau's teachings. In the second year of Guang De, he was invited to teach at Lerng-Diun by his students, so that more people could have a chance to hear his Dharma teachings. He entered into nirvana in the sixth year of Tzing-Yiun. A memorial tower was built for him at East Peak. It was named Gin-Serng pagoda -- "Seeing the basic principle."
(* The Gin-Serng pagoda, erected as a memorial tower after Sec-Tau's death in 790, is today a pile of rubble, overgrown by bushes and thorns. It lies about half a kilometer down the side of the mountain from South Peak Temple, just inside a Chinese military reservation, which was used in recent decades as a missile base. Sec-Tau's body was mummified in black lacquer and placed in a burial urn inside the pagoda. Damaged by fire, it was brought to Japan during the time of the Chinese Revolution (1911), and it may be viewed today at the Soto zen temple Soji-ji in Yokohama.)
The Record of Yerk-Sarn Wai-Ngarm
Master Yerk-Sarn's family name was Horn. He was born in Jiangzhou [in modern Wenxi County, Shanxi County]. At the age of 17, he studied with Master Huizhao, and then he was instructed by Xi Cao in the Buddhist discipline. He was conversant with the classic works of Buddhism and he followed the monastic discipline strictly.
One day he sighed, "A great hero, being free from all things, should of himself be pure. how can I keep living a mundane live and doing trifling things like others?"
When Yerk-Sarn first called on Sec-Tau, he said: "I have already studied many Buddhist sutras. I've heard that the southern school [meant is the school of Mar-Tzoe in Gorng-Sai Province] points directly to people's hearts so they can become Buddhas. I don't understand this and hope you can explain it."
Sec-Tau said, "Doing will not gain, not doing will not gain either, both doing and not doing whatsoever it cannot be gained, now please answer, what is arisen?"
Yerk-Sarn was confused. Sec-Tau said, "Your affinity is not here, you should go see Master Mar-Tzoe."
Yerk-Sarn went to Mar-Tzoe and asked the same question. Mar-Tzoe said, "Sometimes I ask a person to raise his eyebrows and blink his eyelids, sometime I don't. Sometimes it's right and sometimes it isn't. Now please answer, what is arisen?" Yerk-Sarn awakened and bowed to Mar-Tzoe, who asked why he was bowing and what he had understood. Yerk-Sarn said, "When I was with Sec-Tau I was like a mosquito trying to bite an iron ox." Mar-Tzoe said, "If it's like that, then guard it well."
Three years later, Mar-Tzoe asked Yerk-Sarn, "What is your understanding these days?" He answered, "The blinders have fallen way, I see only the truth." Mar-Tzoe said, "What you gain is harmonious with both your heart and your body, and spread through your arms and legs. Being so, you can buckle up your stomach with three bamboo strips and go live in a mountain."
"I don't dare to do so. I'm an unimportant person." Mar-Tzoe said, "No, people should travel around for awhile and then settle down. [Monks should study at different monasteries and later stay somewhere to teach.] You can't always do what you want to do, just as you can't always get what you want. You should be like a floating boat. You mustn't stay here longer." Yerk-Sarn left Mar-Tzoe and went back to Sec-Tau.
One day Yerk-Sarn was sitting on a stone. Sec-Tau asked what he was doing. Yerk-Sarn said he wasn't doing anything. Sec-Tau said, "You're just sitting here?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Just sitting doing nothing is doing something." Sec-Tau asked, "What exactly do you mean by 'doing nothing?'" Yerk-Sarn said, "If you asked all the sages, they wouldn't be able to tell you."
Then Sec-Tau recited a poem.
A person doesn't know how it works,
Just goes along with it naturally.
All the sages in history can't explain it,
Much less that ordinary people can understand it.
(* Sec-Tau composes a poem to approve Yerk-Sarn's understanding. There are four lines of seven characters in each line, with a rhyme scheme of A,A,B,A. )
Sometime later, Sec-Tau taught: "This ordinary mind isn't expressed by words and ideas." Yerk-Sarn said, "No words and no ideas also have nothing to do with this ordinary mind." Sec-Tau said, "You can't penetrate this further." Yerk-Sarn said, "I'm like a flower growing on a rock." [Sec-Tau says literally, "You can't penetrate me." "Rock" of course is also Sec-Tau's name.] Sec-Tau agreed.
Later, Yerk-Sarn became the leader of a monastery in Lizhou [in Woo-Narm Province]. Many students came to study with him. One day Yerk-Sarn said to Doe-Ng, "Shaoxi Mingxi [a student of Mar-Tzoe] used to be a government official in his previous life." Doe-Ng asked, "What did you used to do in your last life?" Yerk-Sarn said, "I was very weak in my last life, nothing at all important." Doe-Ng asked why and Yerk-Sarn said, "In my last life I didn't study hard."
The temple supervisor said, "The bell is ringing now, so please come to the assembly hall." Yerk-Sarn said to him, "Please bring my eating bowl." Whun-Ngarm said to Yerk-Sarn, "Master Yerk-Sarn doesn't use his own hands and feet. How long have you been here?" Yerk-Sarn said to Whun-Ngarm, "It's a mistake for you to be wearing a monk's robe." Whun-Ngarm said, "I agree, but what about you?" Yerk-Sarn said, "I haven't anything attached." [There's nothing added on to from the outside,such as hands and feet. In other words,Yerk-Sarn has no outside attachments.] Then he told Whun-Ngarm to call the attendant for him. Whun-Ngarm asked why. Yerk-Sarn said, "I've got a pot with one leg broken, so I want him to hold up the leg for me." [Yerk-Sarn has a vessel with three legs,one of which is broken,so the attendant will have to stand there and keep the pot from falling over.] Whun-Ngarm said, "I'll give you just my one hand; you don't need a whole hand and body for this purpose." Yerk-Sarn gave the whole thing up.
On another occasion, after the gardener had finished planting some vegetables. Yerk-Sarn said, "The earth can't stop you from planting vegetables… can you stop the vegetables from taking root?" The gardener said, "What will people have to eat if the vegetables don't take root?" Yerk-Sarn said, "You still have a mouth, don't you?" The gardener didn't know what to say.
One day Doe-Ng and Whun-Ngarm were out walking with Yerk-Sarn, who pointed at two trees with his finger. One was healthy and the other was withered up. He asked Doe-Ng, "Which is better, the withered tree or the healthy tree?" Doe-Ng answered, "The healthy one is better." Yerk-Sarn said, "So everything around it becomes bright and colorful." Then he asked Whun-Ngarm the same question. Whun-Ngarm said, "The withered tree is better." Yerk-Sarn said, "So everything around it looks gray and withered up." An attendant named Gao appeared suddenly. Yerk-Sarn asked him the same question. Gao said, "The withered one is withered and the healthy one is healthy." Yerk-Sarn turned to Doe-Ng and Whun-Ngarm and said, "You were both wrong."
Someone asked Yerk-Sarn, "How can one avoid becoming confused by all kinds of outside appearances?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Just leave them alone and they won't trouble you." The person said he didn't understand. Yerk-Sarn said, "What outside appearances are troubling you right now?"
Someone asked Yerk-Sarn, "What’s the most important thing about Buddhist conduct?" Yerk-Sarn said, "The main thing is not to flatter anyone." This person asked, "What would your mind be like if you never flattered anyone?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Even if you were offered the entire country, your mind would never change."
A monk came back to see Yerk-Sarn. Yerk-Sarn asked his name. The monk said, "My name is Changtan." Yerk-Sarn yelled, "You used to be Changtan and you'll always remain Changtan as well!" [Maybe Yerk-Sarn means that Changtan hasn't made any progress while he was away.]
Yerk-Sarn hadn't been to the lecture hall for a long time. The temple supervisor said, "We've all been looking forward to your giving us a lecture." Yerk-Sarn said, "Ring the bell." As soon as the monks had gathered for the lecture, Yerk-Sarn got up from his seat and went back to the abbot's quarters. The supervisor followed and asked why he didn't say anything, since he had agreed to speak to the monks. Yerk-Sarn said, "They have teachers to teach them sutras and they have teachers to teach Abidhamma, so what is there left for me to do?"
One day Yerk-Sarn asked Whun-Ngarm what he was doing. "I just eat and shit." [Literally: "I just bury shit."] Yerk-Sarn said, "Where is your real self?" Whun-Ngarm said, "It's right in front of you." Yerk-Sarn: "For whom are you so busy?" Whun-Ngarm: "For my body, which eats and shits." Yerk-Sarn: "Why not make the body and self fit together?" Whun-Ngarm: "Don't get any false ideas about this body." Yerk-Sarn: "Can't I put it this way?" Whun-Ngarm said, "It's ok with me." Yerk-Sarn said, "Are you still just eating and shitting?"
One day after Yerk-Sarn had sat down, a monk came and asked, "What are you thinking about here by yourself?" "I'm thinking about not-thinking." "How can you think about not-thinking?" "By not thinking."
A student asked Yerk-Sarn, "I've got to go home, is it OK?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Your parents are lying in thorns, and their bodies are all red and swollen. Where are you going to go back to?" The student said, "If that's the way it is, I won't go home." Yerk-Sarn said, "But you have to go home, and therefore I will show you how to live without food." The student said, "Please tell me." Yerk-Sarn said, "When you come to the hall in the morning and evening, don't eat a single grain of rice."
Someone asked Yerk-Sarn, "What is nirvana?" [Nirvana means here the state after death.] Yerk-Sarn said, "What was your name before you were born?"
Yerk-Sarn asked a monk, "Where are you from?" "From Woo-Narm." Yerk-Sarn asked, "Is Dongting Lake full of water?" The monk said no. Then Yerk-Sarn said, "Why isn't it full of water after so much rain?" The monk had nothing to say.
Yerk-Sarn asked a monk, "Where are you coming from?" "From Gorng-Sai." Yerk-Sarn struck his meditation seat three times with his stick. The monk said, "Now I know where I should go." Yerk-Sarn lowered his stick and the monk was silent. Yerk-Sarn called the attendant to give the monk some tea. He was very tired from having travelled such a long way.
Yerk-Sarn asked Layman Pang, "Can there be such a thing as the One Vehicle?" Pang said, "Everyday I just feed myself and there's not much else to do." Yerk-Sarn said, "Then if I said that you hadn't been to see Sec-Tau Xiqian yet, would that be correct?" Pang said, "You like to pick up one thing and drop another [you like to change the subject of conversation]--that really isn't very clever." Yerk-Sarn said, "I've got to look after some abbot's affairs." Pang got up to leave. Yerk-Sarn said, "Actually it's quite clever to pick up one thing and drop another." Pang said, "You were really very clever to ask me that question about the One Vehicle, and I admit I made a mistake today." Yerk-Sarn said, "Yes, yes."
There are three vehicles which can carry sentient beings to Buddha's enlightenment, one each for sravakas, pratyekas, and bodhisattvas. The Lotus Sutra indicates that these three vehicles (the triyana), represented as carts driven by goats, reindeer and oxen, should be viewed together as One Vehicle (ekayana).
Yerk-Sarn, said, "The ancestors told us to protect ourselves so thatthe Three Poisons won't affect us. We should try to prevent them from developing. Don't touch them, don't allow them to arise. For example, if you want to know what a dead tree is, and you go ask Sec-Tau Xiqian to tell you, you still won't pick any leaves or branches from the dead tree. Instead, it would be better to examine the dead tree by yourself, so you can form your own conclusions afterwards. I can say something, but it can't be explained in words. There's nothing for the eyes or ears."
Yerk-Sarn and Whun-Ngarm were walking on a mountain. Yerk-Sarn's sword made a noise at his side. Whun-Ngarm asked what was making the noise. Yerk-Sarn drew his sword and struck the air with it.
A monk named Zun was cleaning the Buddha [maybe a Buddha figure on the altar]. Yerk-Sarn said, "Please continue to clean the Buddha. Can you clean the other one too?" [Yerk-Sarn means the Buddha inside the monk.] Zun said, "Please bring it to me." Yerk-Sarn was silent.
A monk who was a teacher said to Yerk-Sarn, "I've got a problem--can you help me with it?" Yerk-Sarn said, "I'll solve it for you when I'm in the hall." [The meditation hall,also used for lectures.] Later, in the hall, Yerk-Sarn said, "Where is the monk who's got a problem?" The monk stepped out from the group. Yerk-Sarn arose from his meditation seat, grasped the monk and said, "Everybody pay attention: this monk has a problem." Then Yerk-Sarn pushed the monk aside and returned to the abbot's quarters.
Yerk-Sarn asked the head cook, "How long have you been here?" The cook answered, "Three years." Yerk-Sarn said, "I don't know you." The cook went away, feeling puzzled and angry.
A person asked Yerk-Sarn, "What should be done in case of an emergency?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Don't turn your attention to other matters." The same person asked, "What should I lay upon this altar?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Nothing."
Yerk-Sarn ordered a monk to go collect some money. An attendant named Gan asked the monk where he came from. The monk said, "I'm here to spread Buddha's teaching." Gan asked, "Did you bring any medicine?" [The character Yerk means "medicine" and is the same character as in Yerk-Sarn's name.] The monk said, "What are you sick with?" Gan gave him two pieces of silver [to bring him some medicine] and thought to himself, if there's anyone intelligent on this mountain, the silver will be returned to me--if there isn't, I won't get it back. The monk returned to report to Yerk-Sarn, who asked why he was back so soon. The monk said, "Somebody asked me about Buddha's teaching, so I answered his questions properly and was given two pieces of silver afterwards." Yerk-Sarn asked him to repeat the exact words. When the monk had finished, Yerk-Sarn said, "Send the silver back right away. This person has tricked you." So the monk brought back the money. Gan said, "There's a bright person somewhere around here after all," and then gave the monk some more silver.
Yerk-Sarn asked a monk, "I hear that you're rather good at doing calculations, is that right?" [Casting a horoscope could be meant here.] The monk said, "Maybe just a little." Yerk-Sarn said, "You go ahead and calculate and let me watch for awhile." The monk didn't respond.
Yerk-Sarn drew the character for Buddha and asked Doe-Ng what it was. Doe-Ng said, "It's Buddha." Yerk-Sarn said, "You talk too much."
A person asked Yerk-Sarn, "I'm not quite clear about what I'm doing, so please give me some instruction." Then Yerk-Sarn said, "It isn't difficult for me to say something, but it's only good if you understand what I say just as soon as I finish saying it. If my words make you think further, it will be my mistake, so it's better if we both keep our mouths shut."
In the evening the monks were sitting in the hall, which was getting dark. Yerk-Sarn said, "I've got something to tell you after the bull has given birth." A monk said, "Actually the bull already has given birth, but you just don't want to tell us anything. Yerk-Sarn said, "Bring in some light" [so Yerk-Sarn could find out who the monk was]. But the monk had already disappeared back into the group.
Yerk-Sarn asked a monk where he came from. "From Master Nanquan," was the answer. "How long were you there?" "About a year." "Then you've also become an ox." [Nanquan liked to describe himself as an ox, and said that he would be reborn as an ox after his death.] The monk said, "Although I was at his temple, I didn't even enter the dining hall." Yerk-Sarn said, "Did you have anything to drink besides the southeast wind?" The monk said, "Please don't misunderstand. Besides Nanquan, there were others who nourished me."
Someone asked Yerk-Sarn, "Before Bodhidharma came, did Zen exist in this country?" Yerk-Sarn said yes. "If so, why did the Ancestor come here?" Yerk-Sarn said, "He came here precisely because Zen existed in this country."
One day after Yerk-Sarn had finished reading a sutra, a monk said, "Venerable master, in normal days, you forbid people to read the sutras, so why are you reading one now?" Yerk-Sarn said, "I just want to envelop my Eye."
The monk said, "What would you think if I behaved like you?" "When somebody like you reads the sutras, it's like trying to look through an ox's hide." [The monk would be thinking about the contents of the sutra and not realizing their essence.]
A monk said to Yerk-Sarn, "There's a large herd of deer on flat terrain without cover. How would you shoot the leader?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Arrow!" [He pretends to pull out his bow and shoot a deer.] The monk fell down to the ground. Yerk-Sarn said, "Attendant, carry this dead person away." The monk left. Yerk-Sarn said, "His situation is quite hopeless if he keeps playing these little tricks."
The head official at Lorng-Tzau was Ley-Ngoe. He once asked Yerk-Sarn, "What's your family name?" Yerk-Sarn said, "It's the season right now." LEY didn't understand and asked the temple supervisor. "Just now I inquired about the Master's family name and he said, 'the season right now.' I don't understand what his family name is." The temple supervisor said, "His family name is Horn." [Han means "cold " in Chinese.] When Yerk-Sarn heard about it he said, "Why does he talk so much? From that point of view, if I answered his question in the summertime, would my name be Yid?" [Yid means "hot" in Chinese.]
One evening Yerk-Sarn was walking around the mountain when he saw the moon appear suddenly through the clouds. He shouted loudly, and the sound of his shout extended 90 li [30 miles] to the east of Liyang City. The city residents asked their neighbors to the east if they'd heard the noise. The question circulated up to Yerk-Sarn's temple. The students said, "It was the teacher who shouted last night at the top of the mountain." Ley-Ngoe wrote a poem for Yerk-Sarn:
Choosing a quiet place to live
Fits your wild character.
You don't have to welcome anyone or see them off.
Sometimes at the top of the mountain
You can shout under the moon and clouds!
On November 6th in the eighth year of Tie-Wor [834 CE], when Yerk-Sarn was about to enter into nirvana, he suddenly shouted, "Now the meditation hall is going to collapse!" The monks began looking around for wooden poles to support the structure. Yerk-Sarn raised his hand and said, "No, no, you don't understand," and then entered into nirvana.
His memorial tower was built on the east side of the temple. The Torng Emperor Mun-Tzong granted him the posthumous name "The Great Master Wung-Doe". The pagoda was called Far-Sing--"A Place for the Teaching."
The Record of Whun-Ngarm Tarn-Sing
Zen Master Whun-Ngarm Tarn-Sing of Tarm-Tzau was born to a family named Wang in Jianchang at Tzong-Ling. He became a monk at Sec-Moon Temple when he was quite young and practiced Zen with Master Buc-Tzerng Wai-Hoy. Twenty years laters, since he had no affinity with Buc-Tzerng, he left for Yerk-Sarn's temple.
(* Tarm-Tzau is an older name for Tserng-Sar, the present capital of Woo-Narm Province. Tzong-Ling is located in modern Gorng-Sai Province. Buc-Tzerng Wai-Hoy (749-814) is one of the most famous of all Torng-period Zen masters and is remembered mainly for his work on monastic rules for the Zen school, which in later centuries became normative for Chinese Buddhism in general. He was a disciple of Mar-Tzoe and became the teacher of Worng-Pug. It is remarkable to think that Dong-Sarn-Lerng-Guy's teacher Whun-Ngarm studied with Buc-Tzerng for twenty years before turning to Yerk-Sarn for transmission.)
Yerk-Sarn asked Whun-Ngarm where he had come from. Whun-Ngarm answered from Buc-Tzerng. Yerk-Sarn asked what Buc-Tzerng usually said to his students. Whun-Ngarm answered, "He often said, 'I've got a sentence which includes all tastes." [I can state a proposition which contains all meanings.] Yerk-Sarn said, "Salty is salty, plain is plain, neither salty nor plain is the way things taste normally. How can there be a sentence which contains all tastes?" Whun-Ngarm couldn't respond. Yerk-Sarn said, "How can we deal with the problem of life and death?" Whun-Ngarm said, "I haven't studied this yet." Yerk-Sarn asked, "How long did you stay with Buc-Tzerng?" Whun-Ngarm said 20 years, and Yerk-Sarn said, "After 20 years with Buc-Tzerng you still haven't given up your conventional views."
(* The 'one taste' means there is no attachment, no contamination, no purity, no nihilism, no eternalism, no arising, no cessation, no grasping, no abandoning, no self, and no sensation." Garma Chang, A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras, Maharatnakuta Sutra, "Manjusri's Attainment of Buddhahood," p.172.)
Sometime later, Yerk-Sarn asked what else Buc-Tzerng had said. Whun-Ngarm answered, "Sometimes he told me that I should think only about what is beyond the Three Propositions." Yerk-Sarn said, "It's a good thing I'm 3,000 li away from Buc-Tzerng and don't have to deal with him."
(* The Three Propositions are: to give up thinking about existence,to give up thinking about non-existence, and to give up thinking about existence and non-existence.)
Sometime later, Yerk-Sarn asked Whun-Ngarm what else Buc-Tzerng said to him. Whun-Ngarm answered, "Once in the lecture hall, when all the monks were standing there, the master drove us out with his walking stick. Then he called us back and asked, "What is this?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Why didn’t you tell me this before? Now I'm really getting to understand Master Wai-Hoy." Hearing this, Yerk-Sarn suddenly awakened and bowed down before Yerk-Sarn.
On another day, Yerk-Sarn asked, "Where else have you been besides with Buc-Tzerng?" Whun-Ngarm said, "I've been to some places in Guangnan and Guangxi." Yerk-Sarn said, "I heard once that there was a big stone outside the east gate of Guangzhou city, which was eventually removed by order of the mayor, is that true?" Whun-Ngarm answered, "It couldn't be removed by all the efforts of all the people in all the country, let alone by the mayor."
Yerk-Sarn again asked, "You know how to perform the lion's dance, don't you?" Whun-Ngarm said yes. "How many different styles can you perform?" Whun-Ngarm answered six. Yerk-Sarn said, "I can do it too." Whun-Ngarm asked, "How many kinds can you do?" Yerk-Sarn said, "Just one." Whun-Ngarm said, "Six is one, and one is six."
(* The lion-dance is as popular today as it was in Whun-Ngarm's times; it is performed at Chinese New Year's and other festivals. Two or three persons dressed in a lion's costume with an oversized lion's head chase through the streets, pretending to bite the bystanders. Being "bitten" by the lion brings good fortune. The idea of this dialogue is that since all things are empty, and since emptiness is characterized by thusness, all numbers are therefore equal.)
Later, Whun-Ngarm went to see Gwai-Sarn. Gwai-Sarn asked, "I heard you performed the lion's dance at Yerk-Sarn's place last night, is that true?" Whun-Ngarm said, "That's right." Gwai-Sarn said, "Did you perform it without stopping, or did you take a break sometimes?" Whun-Ngarm said, "When I felt like dancing, I danced, and when I felt like stopping, I stopped." Gwai-Sarn asked, "When it was over, what happened to the lion?" Whun-Ngarm said, "Gone, gone."
A monk asked, "What ever became of the ancient sages?" Whun-Ngarm said after a long pause, "What did you say?" The monk said, "What should we do with someone who is as oblivious as a dead person?" Whun-Ngarm said, "Bury him." The monk asked again, "Is it like that with highly realized persons?" Whun-Ngarm asked, "Is the silk woven from the same loom one piece or two?"
Whun-Ngarm was boiling some tea. Doe-Ng asked who he was making it for. Whun-Ngarm answered, "Nobody special." Doe-Ng said, "Why doesn't he go make it for himself?" Whun-Ngarm said, "It's a good thing that I’m here."
Whun-Ngarm asked Sec-Serng, "Where have you come from?" "From Gwai-Sarn." Whun-Ngarm asked, "How long were you there?" Sec-Serng said, "One year." Whun-Ngarm said, "So you could have become the head of the monastery." Sec-Serng said, "Although I was there, I didn't learn anything." Whun-Ngarm said, "Gwai-Sarn didn't learn anything either." Sec-Serng had nothing to say.
Whun-Ngarm was speaking to everyone in the lecture hall. "Once there was a son in a family who could answer any question that was put to him." Dong-Sarn-Lerng-Guy stepped forward and asked, "How many books of the Chinese classics did these people have in their house?" Whun-Ngarm said, "Not a single word." Dong-Sarn said, "Then how could the son become so educated?" Whun-Ngarm said, "He didn't sleep nights." Dong-Sarn asked, "Can you answer me if I ask you a question?" Whun-Ngarm said, "I could, but I'm not going to."
Whun-Ngarm asked a monk, "Where have you been?" The monk replied, "I was just putting on some more incense." Whun-Ngarm asked, "Did you see Buddha?" "Yes, I did." "Where did you see him?" The monk said, "In the human world." Whun-Ngarm praised him: "You're just like the ancient Buddhas."
Doe-Ng asked, "The Bodhisattva of Compassion has thousands of eyes--which is the most important one?" Whun-Ngarm said, "It's like when a person reaches out for his pillow in the middle of the night." Doe-Ng said, "I understand." Whun-Ngarm asked, "What do you understand?" Doe-Ng said, "There are eyes all over one's body." Whun-Ngarm replied, "You said that so directly that you are only 80% correct." Doe-Ng said, "So how do you understand this?" Whun-Ngarm said, "There are eyes all over one's body."
(* Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of infinite compassion, has many arms to help people and also many eyes to see their needs. He helps them instinctively and spontaneously, as a person might adjust his pillow at night while remaining asleep. )
Whun-Ngarm was sweeping the floor. Doe-Ng said, "What you're doing is such a menial task." Whun-Ngarm said, "One should see it as something very important." Doe-Ng asked, "You might as well suppose that there are two moons." Whun-Ngarm held up his broom and said, "Which moon is this?" Doe-Ng walked off.
Whun-Ngarm asked a monk what he was doing. The monk replied, "I've been talking to a rock." Whun-Ngarm said, "Did it nod to you [indicating that it understood you]? When the monk didn't reply, Whun-Ngarm answered for him: "It nodded to you before you even said anything."
Whun-Ngarm was weaving a pair of straw shoes. Dong-Sarn came up and said, "May I borrow your eyes?" Whun-Ngarm said, "Who did you lend yours to?" Dong-Sarn said, "I don't have any eyes." Whun-Ngarm said, "Isn't it your eyes which are borrowing your eyes?" When Dong-Sarn said no, Whun-Ngarm told him to get out.
A monk asked, "What if I fell into an evil world because of desire?" Whun-Ngarm asked, "What makes you think you're in the Buddhist world?" The monk didn't answer. Whun-Ngarm asked if he had understood. The monk said he hadn't. Whun-Ngarm said, "Even if you had, you'd still be wandering between the evil world and the Buddhist world." [You'd still be lost in duality.]
On the 26th day of the tenth month in the first year of the Wooi-Tserng Emperor [December, 841 C.E.], Whun-Ngarm fell ill. In the night of the next day, he passed away. There were over one thousand relics after the cremation, which were then buried under a memorial stupa. He was accorded the title Great Master Moe-Tziu.
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