ZEN IRODALOM ZEN LITERATURE
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林泉從倫 Linquan Conglun (n.d.)
虛堂集 Xutang ji
(Rōmaji:) Rinsen Jūrin : Kyodō shū
(English:) Vacant Hall Collection / Empty Hall Anthology
(Magyar:) Az üres csarnok gyűjteménye
verses by Danxia Zichun 丹霞子淳 (1064-1117)
(Rōmaji:) Tanka Shijun
Public Cases from
the Vacant Hall Collection
Translated by Thomas Cleary
Timeless Spring : A Soto Zen anthology. Weatherhill, Tokyo-New York, 1980, pp. 82-90.
JIUFENG, THE ATTENDANT
People are tested with words, water is tested with a stick,
deep and shallow, high and low-how can they be mixed
up? How pitiful - one spot of feelings' dust makes you
half light and half dark. If you can lose yourself and follow
the others, I dare say then there'd be no regret. Is there
not someone who can let go and be free?
Jiufeng was with Shishuang, serving as his attendant.
After Shishuang passed on, the community wanted to ask
the senior monk in the hall to succeed him as abbot, but
Jiufeng did not agree; he said, "Wait 'till I question him;
if he understands the late master's meaning, I will serve
him as I did the late master."
So he asked the senior monk, "The late master said,
'Cease, desist, for ten thousand years in an instant, like
cold ashes, a dead tree, a censer in an ancient shrine, a
strip of white silk' - tell me, what does this illustrate?"
The senior monk said, "It illustrates the matter of uni-
formity." Jiufeng said, "Then you don't understand the
late master's meaning yet." The senior monk said, "You
don't agree with me? Come set up some incense." Then he
lit the incense and said, "If I don't understand the late
master's meaning, I couldn't die while this incense smoke
is rising." So saying, he sat down and passed away.
Jiufeng then patted him on the back and said, "I don't
deny you can die sitting or standing, but when it comes to
the late master's meaning, you're not there yet."
Calling on a teacher, asking about the way, he assisted at
the monastery, having personally served as Shishuang's
attendant. When Shishuang had died and the community
asked the senior monk to succeed as abbot, Jiufeng's
examination certainly was reasonable. Thus a scripture
says, "Sentient beings are hindered by their understanding;
enlightening beings are not yet free from awareness.'
How much the more so was this senior monk, who relied
on the accomplishment of stillness; if it hadn't been for the
attendant not approving him and honestly testing him
with adverse and favorable situations, after all revealing
seeking, it would be hard to say that the eight winds
couldn't move him and that he was always constant and
stable for all time.
One day Caoshan saw The Paper-Robed Wayfarer come,
and asked him, "Are you not The Paper-Robed Wayfarer?"
He said, "I do not presume." Caoshan said, "What is the
thing in the paper robe?" He said, "As soon as the skin
coat is hung on the body, myriad things are all Thus."
Caoshan said, "What is the function in the paper robe?"
The wayfarer walked up, said "OK" and died standing.
Caoshan said, "You know how to go this way; why don't
you come this way?" The wayfarer suddenly opened his
eyes and asked, "What about when the real nature of the
one life-force does not avail itself of the womb?" Caoshan
said, "This is not yet wonderful." He said, "What is wonderful?"
Caoshan said, "Using without depending." The
Paper-Robed Wayfarer then bade farewell and sat down
and passed away. Caoshan then made a verse saying,
The formless body of complete illumination of the nature of awareness;
Don't use knowledge and views, misconstruing far and near.
If thoughts vary, you're blind to the profound essence;
If the mind differs, you're not close to the path.
When feelings discriminate myriad things, they submerge the present situation;
When consciousness perceives many aspects, you lose the original reality.
If you can clearly understand from such sayings,
Clearly you're the man of before, without any concern.
This is not different from the attendant Jiufeng not agreeing
with the senior monk, particularly since Shishuang's
senior monk, though he knew how to go this way, he
didn't know how to come this way; The Paper-Robed
Wayfarer also knew how to go thus, and also knew how to
come thus - still, Caoshan himself did not let him off
without making an appearance. On the whole, those
whose feelings retain inclination and opposition, and
whose viewpoint is onesided and biased, just greedily
linger in their tracks, sunk in the void, not caring to 'continue
the fragrance, continue the flame.' But tell me, where
is the benefit or harm? Here is Danxia, who harmonizes
with him; his verse says,
Wearing horns, covered with fur - a different species body.
Cold ashes, dead tree-dust in the eyes.
Even if he didn't yet understand the late master's meaning,
Nonetheless his one saying on the verge of going was new.
First enlightened, enlightening afterward, self-help and
helping others, guiding people to benefit the living -
wondrous functions are manifold. In the function
which is identical to essence, holding still and letting
go rest completely in oneself; in the essence which is
identical to function, bringing forth and throwing
away depend on no one else. Therefore we wear horns
and fur, freely embodying different species, plowing in
the clouds under the hazy moon, entering the market
place with open hands. Even cold ashes and dead
trees, cool, clear and pure, when seen with the true
eye, all are defilements. What uniformity can be pinned
Although at the time he didn't understand the late
master's meaning, Danxia volubly approves of him,
saying, "Nonetheless his one saying on the verge of
going was new." Although this saying is new, how
could it compare to having replied to Jiufeng in the
first place when he said, "Then you don't understand
the late master's meaning yet." What he said here was
no more new or fresh. If so, then what was the necessity
of lighting incense and dying while sitting, having
someone pat him on the back and say, "You still don't
understand the late master's meaning?" Do you know
where the freedom to praise or censure, independence
in conceding or taking away is? "A patchwork coverlet
over my head, myriad concerns cease; at this time this
mountain monk understands nothing at all."
LIANGSHAN'S EMPTY AEON
A frozen river bursts into flame, an iron tree blooms with
flowers - it does not come from the loom of creation; how
could it be within the range of yin and yang? Where
primordial chaos is not yet differentiated, try to see for
A monk asked Liangshan, "What is that which is before
the empty aeon?" Liangshan said, "The drum which rattles
the universe, people of the time don't hear."
The unbridled wooden horse leaps high before the primordial
buddha, the legless stone man walks alone after
the emptiness of the aeon; only then will you believe
when it's said that inconceivable existence basically is not
existent, that real emptiness fundamentally is not empty.
Independent, lively standing out, for all time the function
is inexhaustible. Thus we know that this thing is not
empty, not existent, not one, not two, not the same, not
different, not identical, not disparate; try to compare it and
you miss, try to discuss it and you're wrong. It is always
presented to your face - what a pity that it's cast off behind
your head. I deeply pity these folks who try to grasp
the moon in the water, not realizing that the moon is in
the sky, who try to grasp flowers in the air, not realizing
the flowers have no stems. Pursuing an air of fragrance,
they mistake the reflection for the head. Searching with all
their might, they don't get so much as a bit of hair. That is
why Liangshan said, "The drum which rattles the universe,
people of the time don't hear." I say, although living
beings have ears, how many know the sound? Also see
how Danxia settles the harmony; his verse says,
Empty space is the drum, Mt. Sumeru is the drum stick;
Although those who beat are many, those who hear are few.
In the middle of night, a skull awakens from a dream;
Though bright moonlight covers his head, he doesn't think of returning.
Chan master Ji-an of Yanguan in Hangzhou said to his
group, "Space is a drum, Mount Sumeru is the drum
stick; who knows how to beat it?" No one replied. Nanquan
said, "I don't beat this broken drum." I say it's just
that you're too lazy. Fayan said as an alternative, "Nanquan
doesn't beat it." I say, "I'm just afraid the bystander
doesn't know how many beats." Xuedou brought this up
and said, "Those who beat are many, those who hear
extremely few. I ask, who is the one who knows how to
beat it? Don't slander Yanguan. Nanquan said he
doesn't beat this broken drum, Fayan said that Nanquan
doesn't beat it; both can do nothing, one is even
ashamed." He also said, "Nanquan doesn't beat it - does
he agree with everyone else or not?" He answered
himself, "A thousand year field, eight hundred landlords."
I say, curling the fingers counting from the top,
none is real. When you look at it this way, how can we
avoid Danxia's saying, "Although those who beat it are
many, those who hear it are few." In the middle of the
night, the skull first awakens from a dream; in the third
watch, the pillar happens to emit light - those with
eyes, discern it clearly. Just waiting till you've a head
full of moonlight and sideburns of frosty flowers, you
collapse in the present and don't think of beyond time.
That is why Dongshan said, "On the road, don't go;
coming back, turn away from your father." But how can
you get it right? Do you know? Without leaving the
flower-strewn road you travel throughout the clear sky.
DONGSHAN AND THE GREAT MATTER
Looking afar, stop looking nearby; with every thought you
should investigate death and life. Discuss the true, not the
false; earnestly talk only about the ultimate truth. A clear
indication - buy afterwards, try first. Is there anyone who
can profitably open shop? Please do.
Dongshan asked a monk, "In all the world, what thing is
most painful?" The monk said, "Hell is most painful."
Dongshan said, "Not so; to wear this robe and not understand
the great matter is what is really painful."
The Realized One used the four immeasurable minds of
love, compassion, joy, and equanimity to liberate sentient
beings; the patriarchs used the three undefiled sciences of
morality, concentration, and wisdom to awaken the patch-
robed ones. Dongshan points his hand on the summit of
the highest mountain; this monk shakes his head at the
bottom of the deepest sea. Already this is thanking him for
not saying that sugar is most sweet, yellow plum is most
bitter. It seems he can hardly forget what is familiar; even
seeing the doormen of hell in a dream, he is frightened -
he doesn't know that when Devadatta fell into hell for
slandering the buddha and Buddha sent Ananda to ask
after him and see if he was suffering or not, Devadatta
said, "I am in uninterrupted hell, but feel like I'm enjoying
the pleasure of the third meditation heaven." Still this
monk says hell is most painful. According to the capacity,
what a difference, as between sky and earth. That is why
Dongshan said, "Not so; to wear this robe and not understand
the great matter is what is really painful." This is
truly what is called using the heart of a whole lifetime out
of pity for a three-year-old child. Although this is holding
the ox's head to have it eat grass, still it doesn't exclude
adding stripes to a tiger's back. Fortunately we meet Danxia,
who in turn exhorts and admonishes;
Boiling cauldrons, furnaces of coals - how many kinds?
Hell and the three mires are not so painfully bitter.
You should believe the kind words of Xinfeng;
Clothed in monk's vestments, don't be bigheaded.
The ocean of all obstructions from actions all comes from
false conceptions. Are boiling cauldrons, furnaces of
coals, sword-trees and knife-mountains, hells and the
three mires, the only painful things? Because of this
Danxia reiterates this meaning in behalf of Donghsan,
repeating it in the words of his verse - in ancient and
recent times, doting kindness.
In sum, transmigration through the six dispositions,
appearing and disappearing in the four forms of birth,
all is due to not realizing the treasury of the eye of truth,
the ineffable mind of nirvana. When The World-Honored
One first attained true enlightenment, he observed
that all sentient beings everywhere fully possess
the knowledge, wisdom, and virtuous characteristics of
The Realized One; just because of their false conceptions
and attachments they do not realize it. Is this not what
Dongshan is calling the great matter? Therefore Danxia
repeats the instruction: "You should believe the kind
words of Xinfeng; clothed in monks' vestments, don't be
bigheaded." From the end of the Dazhong era of the
Tang dynasty, Dongshan received and guided people on
Xinfeng Mountain; later he spread the teaching at Dong
Mountain (Dongshan) in Gaoan in Yuzhang province.
Provisionally opening up the five ranks, he skillfully
guided those of higher, middling, and lower faculties,
greatly spreading the mystic sound, illuminating the
way of the patriarchs. The name Xinfeng comes from the
mountain where he stayed.
Now about the words he entrusted; are they kind or
not? Should one be bigheaded or not? It is like someone
drinking water - what need to ask whether it is cool
or warm? Only a clear mind knows of itself.