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洞山良价 Dongshan Liangjie (807-869)

寶鏡三昧(歌) Baojing sanmei(ge)
(Rōmaji:) Tōzan Ryōkai: 宝鏡三昧 Hōkyō zanmai(ka)
(English:) Song of Precious Mirror Samadhi / Most Excellent Mirror Samadhi / Jewel Mirror Samādhi
(Magyar:) Tung-san Liang-csie: Paocsing szanmej(ko): Kincstükör szamádhi

五位偏正 Wuwei pianzheng
(Rōmaji:) Goi hensho
(English:) The Five Ranks / The Five Relations Between Particularity and Universality / Five Juxtaposing Opposites / Biased and Right Five Positions
(Magyar:) Vu-vej pien-cseng > Tung-san Liang-csie: Az öt rang

瑞州洞山良价禪師語錄 Ruizhou Dongshan Liangjie chanshi yulu
(Rōmaji:) Zuishū Tōzan Ryōkai zenji goroku
(English:) The Record of Liang-chieh of Tung-shan in Jui-chou

(Magyar:) Zsuj-csou Tung-san Liang-csie csansi jülu / Tung-san csan mester mondása




Tung-shan Liang-chieh: Zen tükör
Fordította: Komár Lajos

Az öt fokozat
Fordította: Komár Lajos

Az ékköves tükör szamádhi dala
Fordította: Hadházi Zsolt

Tung-san Liang-csie: Az öt rang
Fordította Hadházi Zsolt

Tung-san csan mester mondásai
Fordította: Terebess Gábor

Tung-san Liang-csie verse
Fordította: Bakonyi Berta

The Record of Liang-chieh of Tung-shan
Translated by William F. Powell
PDF: Text in full

PDF: Just this is it: Dongshan and the practice of suchness
by Taigen Dan Leighton

Encounter Dialogues of Dongshan Liangjie
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha

JPG: Tung-shan Liang Chieh
Tanslated by Chang Chung-Yuan

Tung-shan Liang-chieh: Founder of the Ts'ao-tung House
by John C. H. Wu

Dialogues of Tung-shan
Translated by Thomas Cleary

Song of Focusing the Precious Mirror
Translated by Thomas Cleary

Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi
Tr. by San Francisco Zen Center, based on translation by Thomas Cleary

Translated by Masunaga Reihō

Jewel Mirror Samadhi
Translated by William F. Powell

Precious Mirror Samadhi
Translated by Sotoshu Shumucho

Seal of the Precious Mirror Samadhi
Translated by Lu Kuan Yu (Charles Luk)

The Most Excellent Mirror―Samādhi
by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett

The Song of the Precious Mirror Samadhi
Commented on by Chan Master Sheng Yen
Translated by Ming Yee Wang and Pei-gwang Dowiat

JPG: Jewel Mirror Samadhi Translation Study
Compiled by Charlie Korin Pokorny

"Dongshan and the Teaching of Suchness" by Taigen Dan Leighton
In: Zen Masters. New York: 2010, pp. 33–58.

The Five Ranks
Translated by Heinrich Dumoulin
Translated by Thomas Cleary
Translated by William F. Powell
Translated by Chang Chung-Yuan

PDF: Dongshan Liangjie: Awakening Through the Sight of His Reflection, pp. 170-179.
In: Narrative agency in thirteenth-fourteenth century Chan figure painting:
a study of hagiography-iconography text-image relationships

by McNeill, Malcolm L. S.
Thesis (Ph.D.), SOAS University of London, 2017.


Encounter Dialogues of Dongshan Liangjie
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha
DOC: Treasury of the Forest of Ancestors

Master Dongshan Liangjie came from Zhejiang Province on China's eastern coast. As a youth he once read the Heart Sutra, and when he came to the words, “no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind...” he didn't just accept it, but wanted to understand the meaning. So he asked his tutor, “I have eyes, ears, a nose, and the rest. Why does this sacred scripture say there is none?”
His tutor, realizing he could not provide a true answer to his inquisitive student, said, “I can no longer be your teacher.” He then arranged for the youth to go study with the aged Master Wuxie Lingmo who lived in the region.
Master Wuxie had been one of the prominent disciples of Great Master Shitou . The youth became a novice under Wuxie, received the name Liangjie, and trained with the master until early adulthood. At the age of twenty-one, Liangjie took full monk's ordination at Shaolin Monastery on Mount Song. He then began to travel in order to meet and study with the many notable masters of his time.
The first teacher he visited was Master Nanquan. When he arrived at South Spring Mountain, the community was preparing for a memorial feast in honor of Nanquan's teacher Master Ma. That evening in a gathering, Master Nanquan asked the community, “Tomorrow we will have a feast for Master Ma, but will the master come or not?”
None of the resident monks were able to answer. Liangjie stepped forward and said, “He will come as soon as his companion is present.”
Nanquan, impressed, said, “Though he's young, he's a precious stone worthy of polishing.”
Liangjie heard the comment, and said, “Master, please don't make a virtuous servant (“Liangjie”) into a slave.”

Soon moving on, Liangjie headed west into Hunan and went to visit Master Guishan Lingyou. In an interview with the master Liangjie said, “I've heard that Master Nanyang Huizhong had said that inanimate beings can give spiritual teaching. I'm not sure I understand this clearly.” Master Guishan asked him to recount what he had heard, and so Liangjie told the story:

A monk once asked Master Nanyang, “What is the mind of the ancient
awakened ones?”
Nanyang said, “Fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles.”
The monk asked, “Aren't fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles non-sentient?”
Nanyang said, “Yes.”
The monk asked, “And they can expound the teaching?'
Nanyang said, “They expound it brilliantly, without ceasing.”
The monk asked, “Why can't I hear it?”
Nanyang said, “You may not hear it, but that doesn't mean others can’t hear it.”
The monk asked, “Who can hear it?”
Nanyang said, “All the sages can hear it.”
The monk asked, “Master, can you hear it?”
Nanyang said, “If I hear it, then I'm the same as the sages. Then you can’t
hear me give the teachings. I expound the teachings for the sake of sentient beings,
not for sages.”
The monk asked, “After sentient beings hear it, then what?”
Nanyang said, “Then they're not sentient beings.”

When Liangjie finished the story, Master Guishan said, “I have this teaching, too, but one rarely finds a person who understands it.”
Liangjie said, “I'm not clear about it. Could you please give some instruction?”
Guishan lifted his whisk upright and said, “Do you understand?”
Liangjie said, “I don't understand. Please explain.”
Guishan said, “It can never be explained by the mouth that comes from our parents.”
After a pause Liangjie said, “Is there anyone else you can recommend who might be able to clarify this for me?”
Master Guishan said, “You should go to Liling in the Youxian region and find the Cloud Cliff where there is a community of practitioners living in caves. There you'll find a man of the way named Master Tansheng of Yunyan. If you can push aside the grass and face into the wind, then I'm sure you'll find him worthy of respect.”
So Liangjie took his leave of Master Guishan, and sought out Master Yunyan. After he found the community at Cloud Cliff and was able to meet with the master, Liangjie related the story about non-sentient beings and asked, “Who can hear the teachings expounded by non-sentient beings?”
Master Yunyan said, “Non-sentient beings can hear the teachings expounded by non-sentient beings.”
Liangjie asked, “Master, can you also hear them?'
Yunyan said, “If I was hearing them, then you couldn't hear me expound the teachings”
Liangjie asked, “Why wouldn't I hear you?”
Yunyan then raised his whisk and asked, “Can you hear it yet?”
Liangjie said, “No, I can't.”
Yunyan said, “If you don't even hear me expounding the teaching, how can you expect to hear non-sentient beings expound the teaching?”
Liangjie was silent. Then he asked, “What scripture explains about non-sentient beings expounding the teaching?”
Master Yunyan said, “Haven't you read in the Amitabha Sutra the line, 'The lakes and rivers, the birds, the forests, they're all chanting of awakening, they're all chanting the teaching.'?”
Liangjie then had a realization. He later wrote a verse:
How wondrous! How incredible!
The teaching of the non-sentient is beyond conception.
If you listen with your ears, you can't understand.
When you hear with the eyes, then you'll see directly.

Liangjie decided to stay on to practice with Master Yunyan. He said to the master, “I have some habits that I've not yet been able to stop. Do you recommend any particular practices?”
The master said, “What practices have you been doing?”
Liangjie said, “I'm not even practicing the four noble truths.”
The master said, “Has this not-practicing been joyful?”
Liangjie said, “It's not without joy. It's like sweeping up shit into a huge pile, and then suddenly finding a precious jewel within it.”

One day when Master Yunyan was making straw sandals, Liangjie approached and said, “I would like to see with the master's eyes.”
Yunyan said, “Where have your own eyes gone?”
Liangjie said, “I've never had them.”
The master said, “Suppose you did have them, where would you keep them?”
Liangjie said nothing.
The master said, “Isn't it the eye that desires eyes?”
“I don't have the eye,” insisted Liangjie.
The master shouted, “Get out of here!”

Liangjie once asked Master Yunyan, “If I want to meet you, what should I do?”
Yunyan said, “Ask the master for an interview.”
Liangjie said, “I'm doing that right now.”
Yunyan said, “What is he saying to you?”

Eventually Liangjie decided to leave Master Yunyan's place and continue traveling. As he was preparing to leave, the master asked him, “Where are you going?”
Liangjie said, “Although I'm going, I don't know where I'll end up.”
The master said, “If you leave, it will be difficult to meet again.”
Liangjie said, “I feel it will be difficult not to meet.”
The master didn't respond.
Just as Liangjie was about to depart, he asked the master, “If in the future someone asks if I have a true picture of Master Yunyan, how should I respond?”
After a long pause the master said, “Just this is it.”
Liangjie was silent.
Then Master Yunyan said, “Venerable Jie, now that you have taken on this great matter, you must pay very careful attention.”
Liangjie departed.

As Liangjie first set out on pilgrimage, he met an old woman on the road carrying water and asked her for some to drink. The old woman said, “I'll let you have some, but I have a question first. Tell me, how dirty is the water?”
Liangjie said, “It's not dirty at all.”
The old woman said, “Go away and don't contaminate my water buckets!”

As he traveled Liangjie continued to have some doubt. Then one day as he was crossing a stream, he saw his reflection in the water and had a deep realization. Later he composed a verse to express it:
Don't seek after other places, or the self will recede far away.
Now I walk alone, yet everywhere I meet it.
It's no other than myself, yet “I” am not it.
You must see it like this to merge with “suchness.”

Liangjie visited for a while with Master Yuanzhou Daoming, who had been a disciple of Master Ma. When Liangjie was ready to continue on, Master Yuanzhou said, “Make a thorough study of the Way of Awakening, and broadly benefit the world.”
Liangjie said, “I have no question about studying the Way of Awakening, but what is it to broadly benefit the world?”
Yuanzhou said, “Not to disregard a single being.”

Next Liangjie went to visit Master Jingzhou Xingping, another disciple of Master Ma who lived in the capital. When Liangjie arrived and made his prostrations, Master Jingzhou said, “You shouldn't honor an old dotard.”
Liangjie said, “I'm honoring one who is not an old dotard.”
Jingzhou said, “Those who are not old dotards don't accept honoring.”
Liangjie replied, “Neither do they obstruct it.”

When Liangjie was taking his leave of Master Jingzhou, the master asked, “Where will you go?”
Liangjie said, “I'll just roam about, without any fixed place to stop.”
Jingzhou asked, “Will it be the “Truth-Body” or the “Complete Enjoyment-Body” that roams about?”
Liangjie said, “I would never explain it that way.”
Master Jingzhou clapped his hands.

Liangjie finally settled down and began to teach at a monastery on Cave Mountain (Dongshan) in the Ruizhou region of Jiangxi. As Master Yunyan had passed away, Liangjie, now called Master Dongshan, arranged a memorial feast to honor him. During the feast a monk asked, “When you were with Master Yunyan what teaching did he give you?”
Master Dongshan Liangjie said, “Although I was there I didn't receive any teaching.”
The monk said, “If you didn't receive any teaching from him, why are we having this feast to honor him?”
Dongshan said, “Why should I turn my back on him ?”
The monk asked further, “You studied earlier with Master Nanquan; why is it Yunyan that we are honoring?”
Dongshan said, “It is not my former master 's virtue or teachings that I honor, it's that he did not make explanations for me.”
The monk continued, “But do you approve of his teachings?”
Dongshan said, “Half approve, half not approve.”
The monk said, “Why don't you completely approve?”
Dongshan said, “If I completely approved then I would be ungrateful to my late master.”

After Dongshan had made offerings to a painting of Master Yunyan, another monk asked, “You've told us that Master Yunyan said, 'Just this is it.' What was his meaning?”
Dongshan said, “At that time I didn't fully understand.”
The monk asked, “Did the late master fully understand 'just this'?”
Dongshan said, “If he didn't understand, how could he have said those words? If he did understand, how could he have said those words?”

Once Master Dongshan gave a talk to the community and said, “You should understand the one who goes beyond buddha.”
A monk asked, “Who is it who goes beyond buddha?”
The master said, “Not buddha.”

Yunmen comments:
He couldn't move it or attain it, so he calls it “not.”
Fayan comments:
Through skillful means it is called “buddha.”

Master Dongshan also said to the community, “To experience the matter of going beyond the awakened ones, you must be capable of a little speech.”
A monk asked, “What is speech?”
The master said, “At the time of speaking, you don't hear.”
The monk said, “Master, do you hear?”
The master said, “When I'm not speaking, then I hear.”

Once a monk came to see Master Dongshan after practicing with Master Daci Huanzhong, a disciple of Baizhang Huaihai. Master Dongshan asked the monk, “What teachings does Master Daci have?”
The monk said, “Once in a talk Master Daci said, 'To speak one yard does not equal practicing one foot. To speak one foot does not equal practicing one inch.'”
Dongshan said, “I wouldn't say it that way.”
The monk asked, “How would you say it?”
Dongshan said, “Practice that which cannot be spoken. Speak that which cannot be practiced.”

Dogen said:
“Practice that which cannot be practiced, and speak what cannot be spoken.”

Master Dongshan asked this same monk about the other words of Master Daci. The monk told of his parting conversation with the master:
Master Daci asked, “Where are you going?”
The monk said, “To Jiangxi.”
Daci asked, “May I trouble you with a request?”
The monk asked, “What is it?”
Daci said, “Would you mind taking this old monk with you?”
The monk answered, “There is already someone who surpasses you, teacher, but I can't even take that person.”
Master Daci then left to take a rest.
When Dongshan heard the story he asked, “Why did you answer the master like that?”
The monk asked, “How would you have answered, master?”
Dongshan said, “'All right, I';ll take you.'”

One day a monk asked Master Dongshan, “When the cold season comes, where can we go to escape it?”
The master said, “Why not go to the place where cold or hot do not reach?”
The monk asked, “Where is the place where cold or hot do not reach?”
The master said, “When it's cold, you die of cold. When it's hot, you die of heat.”

Dogen said:
If the greatest cold does not penetrate into our bones, how will the fragrance
of the plum blossoms pervade the entire universe?

Once the monk Kuangren asked Master Dongshan, “In words that have not yet been spoken, master, please give me some teaching about realization.”
The master said, “I never say that there's anyone who can't realize it.”
Kuangren asked, “Can it be realized through practice or not?”
The master said, “Are you realizing it right now through practice?”

One day a monk said to Master Dongshan, “You often tell us to follow the 'bird path.' I wonder what this 'bird path' is.”
The master said, “It's where one does not encounter a single person.”
The monk asked, “How does one follow such a path?”
The master said, “One should go without hemp sandals on one's feet.”
After a pause the monk asked, “If one follows the bird path, isn't that seeing one's original face?'
The master said, “Why are you turning things upside down?”
The monk asked, “How have I turned things upside down?”
The master said, “Okay, if you haven't turned things upside down, why do you regard the servant as master?'
After another pause the monk asked, “What is our original face?”
The master said, “Not to follow the bird path.”

When the monk Xiujing was practicing with Master Dongshan, he once told the master, “I still cannot see the essential path - I'm still not free of discriminating thinking.”
The master said, “Do you think there is such a path?”
Xiujing, after some thought, said, “No, I don't think there is such a path.”
The master said, “Where did you acquire your discriminating thinking?”
Xiujing said, “I ask you that with all sincerity.”
The master said, “Why don't you go to the place where there is no grass for ten thousand miles?”
Xiujing asked, “How can I go to such a place?”
The master said, “Go directly! Right now!”

At the end of a summer practice period, Master Dongshan told the community, “As summer ends and autumn begins, go straight to a place where there is not an inch of grass for ten thousand miles.”
No one in the community made a response. Later, a monk told Master Shishuang Qingzhu about this. Shishuang said, “Why didn't you say, 'one step outside the gate there is grass everywhere.'?”

Master Dongshan had a good friend who had been a fellow student with him under Master Yunyan. His name was Sengmi, from Sacred Mountain (Shenshan), and the two would often visit and travel together.
Once Sengmi was mending clothes when Dongshan came by. Dongshan asked, “What are you doing?”
Sengmi said, “I'm sewing.”
Dongshan asked, “What is sewing?”
Sengmi said, “Each stitch follows the other.”
Dongshan said, “If my companion of twenty years says so, I guess there's some point.”
Sengmi said, “What would you say, elder brother?”
Dongshan said, “Each stitch is like the earth exploding!”

Dongshan and Sengmi were once crossing a river. Dongshan said, “Don't make a mistake with your steps and fall into the current.”
Sengmi said, “If I make a mistake, I won't be alive to cross the river.”
Dongshan said, “What is the path without mistakes?”
Sengmi said, “Crossing the river with the elder.”

One day a monk asked Master Dongshan, “Since the master has entered the world to teach, how many people have acknowledged you?'
“Not a single person has acknowledged me,” replied the master.
“Why hasn't anyone acknowledged you,” asked the monk.
The master said, “The realm of each person's mind is like the realm of a sovereign.”

Once when Master Dongshan was washing his bowls with another monk, they both saw two birds contending over a frog. The monk asked, “Why does it have to come to this?”
The master said, “It's only for your benefit, venerable.”

At the end of his life Master Dongshan became sick. A monk came and asked him, “Even as the master is sick, is there still someone who doesn't get sick?”
The master said, “There is.”
The monk asked, “Can the one who doesn't get sick treat the master?”
The master said, “I'm able to see him.”
The monk asked, “What do you see?”
The master said, “At that time, I don't see any sickness.”

When Master Dongshan was close to death, he had the monastery bell rung to summon the community for a last farewell. When he had appeared to pass away, some monks expressed despair and some began to sob. Suddenly the master opened his eyes and said, “Home-leavers aren't attached to things! That is their authentic practice. Why lament over changes?”
The master then instructed the monastery director to organize a feast in a week's time. It was to be called a “delusion feast.” Master Dongshan spent seven more days with the community, and joined them for this final meal. Then he said, “Don't make a big fuss about it. When I pass away, don't go carrying on.”
The master then returned to his room, sat upright, and passed away.


Ts'ao-tung Ch'an and Its Metaphysical Background, with Translations of the Dialogues of the Founders
by Chang Chung-yuan
Tsinghua Journal of Chinese Studies, Vol. 5. n.1, 1965.01.01, pp. 33–65

Cf. Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism. Translated by Chang Chung-yuan. New York: Random House, 1969. pp. 58-70.


Tung-shan Liang-chieh: Founder of the Ts’ao-tung House
by John C. H. Wu
Chapter X
In: The Golden Age of Zen
Taipei : The National War College in co-operation with The Committee on the Compilation of the Chinese Library, 1967, pp. 171-190.

Ts’ao-Tung House of Ch’an was founded jointly by Tungshan Liang-chieh (807-869) and his disciple Ts’ao-shan Pen-chi (840-901). It has been called Ts’ao-tung rather than Tung-ts’ao, not because the disciple was more important than the master, but because the mountain where the disciple later resided as Abbot was named by him Ts’ao-shan in honor of the Sixth Patriarch, who used to reside in Ts’ao-ch’i. Hence the name “Ts’ao-Tung.”

Tung-shan was born into a Yü family of Kuei-chi in present Chekiang. In his tender years he joined a Buddhist monastery as a novice. The master taught him to recite the Pan-jo Hsin- ching (Prajna-hridaya Sutra); but when he came to the sentence: “There is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind,” he suddenly put his hand on his face and asked his master, “I do have eyes, ears, nose, tongue and so forth; how, then, can the Sutra say that there are no such things?” The master was amazed by this unexpected question and began to marvel at the boy’s matter-of-factness.

This little incident is quite significant. The boy did not show any precocity in spiritual understanding. But at least he did show that independence of mind which is so indispensable to a seeker of Truth. Ordinary pupils of those days were all too apt to assume that nothing found in the sacred scriptures could be wrong; but the young Tung-shan refused to be hoodwinked by any man or any book. This evidently was what made the master marvel and say, “I am not the teacher for you!”

He was professed in his early twenties. As usual, his profession was followed by a period of journeying to different centers of Buddhist learning and calling on different masters for their instructions. The first one whom Tung-shan visited was Nanch’üan, the beloved disciple of the late Ma-tsu. The visit happened to fall on the eve of an anniversary of Ma-tsu’s decease. In a regular gathering, Nan-ch’üan asked his monks, “Tomorrow we are going to make offerings to Ma-tsu. I wonder if Ma-tsu will come. What do you think?” The whole community remained silent. Only Tung-shan came forward and said, “He will come as soon as he finds his companion.” Profoundly impressed by the young visitor, Nan-ch’üan remarked, “Although this man is still a youth, he is excellent material to carve and polish.” “Let not the Venerable Abbot,” said Tungshan, “debase a free man into a slave!” Here again he showed his spirit of independence, and, besides, some idea of the inner self, which cannot be carved and needs no polishing.

He next visited Kuei-shan (771-853), and wished him to enlighten him on the question whether it is true that the inanimate things expound the Dharma, and, if so, how is it that we do not hear their expounding. After some discussions, Kueishan finally said, “The mouth which my parents gave me will never explain it to you.” Somewhat puzzled, he asked Kuei-shan whether he knew another lover of Tao whom he could consult. At Kuei-shan’s recommendation, Tung-shan went to see Yün-yen (782-841), to whom he put the question point-blank: “When the inanimate beings expound the Dharma , who can hear it?” “The inanimate can,” was the immediate reply of Yün-yen. Tung-shan again asked, “Do you hear?” “If I did,” said Yün-yen, “you would not hear my expounding of the Dharma.” Tungshan was still skeptical as to whether the inanimate beings could really expound the Dharma. Yün-yen then raised his dust-whisk, asking, “Do you hear it?” “No, I do not hear,” Tung-shan answered. Thereupon Yün-yen said, “If you do not even hear my sermon, how can you expect to hear the sermon of the inanimate beings?” And he added, “Have you not read in the Amitabha Buddha Sutra: ‘Streams, birds and trees are all chanting Buddha and Dharma?’” At that point Tung-shan was made aware of the truth, and composed a gatha to record his experience:

How wonderful! How wonderful!
The inanimate expounding the Dharma
What an ineffable truth!
If you try to hear it with your ears,
You will never understand it.
Only when you hear it through the eye,
Will you really know it.

Yün-yen asked him, “Are you happy now?” His answer shows his usual candor: “I do not say that I am not happy, but my happiness is like that of someone who has picked up a bright pearl from a heap of garbage.” The bright pearl referred, of course, to the new insight; as to the heap of garbage, very probably he had in mind the remnants of old habits which, as he confessed, were still in him.

Later, when Tung-shan bade farewell to his master, the latter remarked affectionately, “After this separation, it will be hard for us to see each other.” “Rather it will be hard for us not to see each other!” replied the disciple. Again he asked the master, “After you have completed this life, what shall I say if anyone asks, ‘Can you still recall your master’s true face?’” The master remained silent for a long while and then replied, “Just this one is.” This set the disciple to musing. Finally, the master said, “In carrying out his charge, exercise your utmost circumspection and care.”

While on his journey, Tung-shan continued to muse on the cryptic words of the master: “Just this one is.” Later on, in crossing a stream, he happened to see his own reflection in the water, and right on the spot he was thoroughly awakened to the real meaning of “Just this one is.” He epitomized the experience in a gatha:

Do not seek him anywhere else!
Or he will run away from you!
Now that I go on all alone,
I meet him everywhere.
He is even now what I am.
I am even now not what he is.
Only by understanding this way
Can there be a true union with the Self-So.

The term I have rendered here as “Self-So” is ju-ju, which is the same as chen-ju, the Chinese for the Sanskrit Bhutatathata. It is “self-subsistent Suchness,” or “Thusness,” or “Eternal That.” It corresponds to the “eternal Tao” of the Tao-Teh-Ching, to the “Brahman” in Hinduism, and to the “I-Am-That-I-Am” of the Old Testament. The most significant couplet of this remarkable gatha is:

He is even now what I am.
I am even now not what he is.

Clearly there is a subtle distinction between the “I” and the “He.” He is I, but I am not He. This is like saying that God is more myself than myself, although I am not God. There is the same relation between the “I” and the “He” as between Atman and Brahman, and between the True Man of Tao and Eternal Tao.

This gatha is one of the most precious gems, not only in Buddhism, but in the spiritual literature of the whole world. It presents a vision, a living experience, with authenticity written all over its face. Transparent yet profound, it reminds us of Tu Fu’s:

How limpid the autumn waters, and with no bottom.

In this gatha you see still the same old independent and matter-of-fact Tung-shan with his vision lifted to a new height. He is alone and yet in company. He has attained Oneness, yet it is a Oneness not unrelieved by a refreshing diversity. His ethereal vision does not prevent him from walking on the solid ground. And his contemplation of the Eternal Self-So has led him back to the here and now.

When his wandering took him to Le-tan, he saw the assembly leader Ch’u, who used to say:

Oh, how wonderful, how wonderful!
The ineffable realms of Buddha and Tao!

Tung-shan remarked, “I would not ask about the realms of Buddha and Tao. I only wish to know the man who is speaking of the realms of Buddha and Tao.” Further on, he said, “Buddha and Tao are but names and words; why don’t you resort to the true doctrine?” When Ch’u asked, “What does the true doctrine teach?” Tung-shan replied, “When you have got at the idea, forget about the words.”

This was a quotation from the Book of Chuang Tzu. It is remarkable that Tung-shan should have introduced a quotation from Chuang Tzu. This bespeaks his catholicity, and reveals the close affinity between Ch’an and Tao.

Around 860, when he was in his early fifties he became an Abbot on Tung-shan Mountain in present Chiang-hsi. (Like so many other cases he has been called by the name of the mountain where he taught.) On an anniversary of Yün-yen’s decease, a monk asked Tung-shan, “Abbot, when you were with Yün-yen, what particular instructions and directions did you receive from him?” Tung-shan replied, “Although I was in his community, he neither directed nor instructed me.” “This being the case,” asked the monk, “why do you make offerings to him?” “Well,” said the Abbot, “I revere my late master not for his virtue and learning, but because he did not break the secret to me.” Then the monk asked him whether he agreed with all the teachings of his late master. “I accept half and reject half,” the Abbot replied. “Why not accept the whole?” the monk asked, and the Abbot explained, “If I did, I should be unworthy of my late master.” Evidently, his growing age had not lessened his spirit of independence. In fact, it was a part of Ch’an traditions that a disciple must prove smarter than his master before the latter could transmit the lamp to him.

When a monk asked, “In cold days and hot days, where can we betake ourselves to avoid the coldness or the heat?” the Abbot asked back, “Why don’t you go to a place where there is neither coldness nor heat?” “What kind of place is it?” “When it is cold, you are frozen to death. When it is hot, you are roasted to death.” This dialogue serves to show what a patient and subtle teacher Tung-shan was. In his hands, even a silly question could be turned into a spring-board for the ocean of mystical wisdom.

Tung-shan was equable in temper, never resorting to shouts or beatings. Nor did he resort to the mind-teasing kung-ans. His dialogues are simple yet profound. They are like olives: the more you chew at them the better they taste. For instance, a monk asked him whether it was true that the late master Yün-yen had once said, “Just this one is.” The Abbot answered, “Yes.” “Do you believe that he knew that there is?” asked the monk again. The Abbot replied, “If he did not know that there is, how could he speak of it as he did? If, on the other hand, he knew that there is, why did he force himself to speak of it at all?”1 “This one” of course refers to the true Self, and “there is” (in Chinese, yu) is a common expression in Ch’an literature, to designate Pure Being or Reality. Strictly speaking, neither the true Self nor Pure Being could be expressed in words. On the one hand, one is aware that the true Self or Pure Being is; on the other hand, it is essentially inexpressible in words, and even the phrase “this one” is already an intruder. This, I imagine, is what Tung-shan meant to suggest to the mind of his questioner. But being a great master of the Ch’an pedagogy, he refrained from stating his views plainly, and resorted to the use of questions in order to stimulate his pupil to think and find the answer for himself. One answer that a student finds for himself is worth more than a hundred answers hammered into his head by a teacher.

Anyone who deals with the teachings of Tung-shan and his House will soon notice the doctrine of the “five positions of prince and minister.” This doctrine and others like it are not of central importance in the teaching of Tung-shan’s school. They are merely expedient means or pedagogical schemata for the guidance of the less intelligent students. It is regrettable that historians of Ch’an have a tendency to treat these incidentals as essentials and to ignore the true essentials altogether.

With this necessary reminder, let me give a brief account of the doctrine of “five positions.” (In fact, there are various ways of formulating them. Tung-shan has one way, while Ts’ao-shan has another.)2 As Tung-shan presented them, the five positions are (1) The noumenal hidden under the phenomenal; (2) the phenomenal pointing to the noumenal; (3) the noumenal entering consciously into the phenomenal; (4) the two arriving at a harmony; (5) reaching the heart of the harmony.

These five positions were meant to indicate the progressive stages or degrees of spiritual life and enlightenment. In the first stage, the student is more or less unaware of the noumenal in him, and directs his attention to the phenomenal. Instead of being the host that he virtually is, he remains a guest. But as in reality the noumenal and the phenomenal form a continuous whole or, in the words of Lao Tzu, a mysterious identity, even a one-sided attention to the phenomenal and a serious study of its laws and interrelations may turn out to be a useful preparation for soaring into the heights and diving into the depths. Besides, no one can study the phenomenal for long without becoming gradually aware of the part that his mind plays and contributes. The discovery of the subjective element in the objective is the beginning of self-discovery. So, too, on the moral plane, one begins by behaving conformably to the prevailing customs of his community, regarding them as sacred and universally applicable to all men everywhere. But as he grows in experience he comes to discover that the familiar is not necessarily right, nor the unfamiliar necessarily wrong. Bewildered for a moment by the phenomenon of conflicting moral standards, he is inevitably driven to turn inwards to himself and to seek guidance in reason and conscience. In this way, he becomes more and more aware that essentially he is a free man rather than a slave. But on all planes, the old habits die hard.

Tung-shan’s characterization of this first “rank” is as follows:

The noumenal hidden under the phenomenal!
In the dusk of early evening, before the moon has risen,
It is little wonder if you fail to recognize the person you meet.
Dimly, dimly, you approach him as a stranger with your habitual suspiciousness.

In the second stage, we see the phenomenal moving to the noumenal. It is a centripetal movement. The light has dawned in you, and as you see your old friend clearly, you have no more dim fears and suspicions bred in you by painful experiences in the past, when you used to be betrayed by people whom you foolishly took for friends but who turned out to be thieves and robbers. You are disillusioned with the world of illusions and at the same time awakened to the real and immutable. This stage is marked by the crucial experience of enlightenment or Satori. Tung-shan’s poetic characterization of it is both clear and interesting:

The Phenomenal moving to the noumenal!
The dawn has come to the surprise of an old woman,
And she chances upon an antique mirror, in which she sees
Clearly and distinctly her own face, so different from all the images she had formed of herself!
From now on, she will no longer ignore her own head
And grasp at its mere shadows.

Having been enlightened in the second stage, a man becomes what he really is, a true man, a free man, a host and a prince. He is now definitely in the “personality stage.” He may be called a “noumenal man.” Now, let the noumenal man come back to the phenomenal world, to work and teach for the sake of his fellow beings. This third stage is called “coming from the noumenal.” The man who thus comes is in the world but not of it. Tung-shan put it thus:

Coming from the noumenal!
In a cloud of dust, he follows a secret road beyond the reach of dust.
He excels in keeping unsaid things tabooed at present.
Yet he says more than the most eloquent tongues of the past.

In other words, coming from the noumenal, he realizes how impossible it is to convey in words things he has personally experienced and intimately known to persons who are still in the first stage, and how misleading it would be to them if he were to offer them some neat and easily memorized formulas in lieu of the real thing. This is why the Ch’an masters have mostly followed the via negativa and an esoteric approach far from the beaten track. Sometimes, they resort to interesting parables and very original and striking figures of speech. Even shouts and beatings and nonsensical answers to sensible questions have been preferred to cut-and-dried definitions and systematic presentations, which would only create an illusion of certainty and lull people to sleep. The Ch’an master, at least the greatest among them, had only one aim in mind: to rouse the dormant potentialities of the pupils, to make them think for themselves and be the men that they are. As to whether they have used the best means, it is another question.

When an enlightened man has penetrated deeply into the phenomenal world, he feels more at home in the world than in the third stage till he realizes that klesha is nothing else than bodhi. He comes to know experientially what he already realized in his intellect, that the phenomenal and the noumenal are essentially one. He comes to see that both the noumenal and the phenomenal belong to the realm of relativity, and not the Absolute. It stands to reason that the Source, the mysterious whole, from which , as Lao Tzu pointed out, both the miao (the noumenal) and the chiao (the phenomenal) spring out, is prior to and greater than either of them. Actually, the noumenal and the phenomenal constitute one single stream, flowing from the ultimate Source. The very words “noumenal” and “phenomenal” are but tags invented by the human mind, and therefore there are moral distinctions between them. The enlightened man is not just his noumenal self but an integral whole of the noumenal and the phenomenal. Therefore, he does not aspire to the noumenal, but to something infinitely higher and deeper at the same time, the ne plus ultra. This point will be clearer to us if we read carefully Tung-span’s characterization:

The noumenal and the phenomenal coming together!
There is no need to avoid their crossed swords!
The experienced soldier blooms like the magical lotus amidst fire,
While all the time his heroic wishes pierce beyond the skies.

In the final stage, one reaches the heart of the union of the noumenal and the phenomenal. At the heart, the union turns into a unity. In the fourth stage, there is still the aspiration soaring beyond the cosmos. That stage may therefore be called “meta-cosmic.” This stage, on the other hand, is “trans-meta-cosmic.” Having soared to the transcendental, the man must now return to this noumenal-phenomenal world. In the fourth stage, he was heroic: in the present stage, he finds heaven on earth, and to him even the most ordinary things in life are heavenly. As Tung-shan put it:

Lo, he has arrived at supreme unity!
Beyond the “is” and the “is not,”
Who dares to follow the rhymes of his poetry?
Let others aspire to the extraordinary!
He is happy to return home and sit amidst ashes!

“To sit amidst ashes” is to be enveloped in complete darkness. That this should have been put by Tung-shan at the very summit of such a wonderful pilgrimage of the spirit may at first sight appear rather strange, if not disappointing. What an anticlimax it would seem to be! But to anyone who is acquainted with the testimonies of great mystics of the world, it would be surprising if his final finding were different from what he actually found and recorded. Here his remarkable matter-of-fact-ness has stood him in good stead even in the rarefied sphere of high mysticism. He is in the company of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Plotinus, Meister Eckhart, and John of the Cross. “Knowing yet unknowing is the highest,” Lao Tzu had declared, and all the masters of Dark Truth have echoed him. Tung-shan’s charcoal or ashes is but a symbol of Dark Truth. On another occasion, he referred to it in these words: “Something there is: it is the prop of the sky above and the earth below, it is black like lacquer; it is perpetually in movement and activity.” This sounds like a riddle. Actually, it is more than a riddle, it is none other than Tao, the Mystery of Mysteries.

Tung-shan has given us another somewhat different sketch of the five stages, under a new set of names: (1) hsiang, or admiration, attraction or aspiration, (2) feng, or willing submission, (3) kung, or fruition, (4) k’ung kung, or multiple fruition, and (5) kung kung, or the fruition of fruition. Evidently, this was a chart for the spiritual direction of his disciples.

In the initial stage of hsiang, the master must be the kind of person whose conduct and wisdom can inspire love and admiration in his disciples, so that they too may aspire to his ideals. Tung-shan poetized this stage thus:

All holy rulers have patterned themselves upon Emperor Yao,
Who treated his people with respect and humility.
Whenever he passed by crowded markets and streets,
He was hailed by all his people for his benevolent government.

In the political world, this would be the peak of achievement. But in the spiritual order, this is but the beginning, the initial attraction.

In the stage of feng, the disciple is expected to embrace whole-heartedly sober meditation and strict discipline. The first fervor must now be turned into a steady fire. Tung-shan poetized it thus:

“For whom have you stripped yourself of your gorgeous dress?”
“The cuckoo’s call is urging all wanderers home!”
Event after all the flowers have fallen, it will continue its call
In the thickets of wood among the jagged peaks.

This stanza needs a little annotation. In the first line we find the novice already started on the life-long job of living, of being himself. He has cleansed himself of all his colorful adornments. For whom has he done it? His answer is found in the second line: He has done so certainly not because the master has praised him, but simply because a mysterious voice has been urging him to return home. This mysterious voice is symbolized by the cuckoo’s cry. In the poetical lore of China, the cuckoo’s note sounds like ch’ui kuei, or “time to return home,” so that on hearing it the wanderer becomes homesick. But whose voice is it? It might be the voice of a brother, a sister, a lover, a friend, or even a parent. Anyway, it is the voice of someone very intimate to you, who has a selfless concern about you, warning you against your aimless wanderings which, to put it moderately, can lead you nowhere. It is not a stern voice speaking categorically, but a gentle voice like the refreshing breeze in a hot summer day. It is all the more irresistible for its tenderness. But whose voice is it?

The disciple in this stage, however, is more interested in the message than in the messenger. He is still in the “faith stage,” not yet in the “personality stage.” The message is the call to return home. But monks have called themselves “home-leavers.” Is the cuckoo calling them to return to the homes they have left? That’s impossible. Then where is the home the voice is calling them to return to? The home is within you. Recollection is the beginning of the interior life.

In the last two lines, the veteran master is telling the novices they are not the only wanderers who need to be reminded of the home, for, in a sense, even the most advanced in the life of the spirit are still on the way. This prospect does not make the novice falter: rather, it consoles him by making him realize that in his journey home he is not alone but in good company.

This leads us to the third stage, the stage of first fruition. This is a period of rest and delight. The rest is well earned, but the delight is a surprising boon. Tung-shan’s poem itself breathes rest and delight:

The withered tree flowers into a new spring far, far away from Time’s kingdom.
The hunter of the unicorn rides backwards on a jade-white elephant.
Carefree, he makes his lofty home now beyond the myriad peaks,
Where clear moon and pure breeze fill him with happy days.

This scene is too beautiful and quiet! Any comment on my part would only soil it. Only the second line needs a little elucidation. The jade-white elephant symbolizes the Tao in motion and operation. The unicorn is the Tao as the ultimate goal. Now the pursuer of Tao has entered on the path of fruitful passivity, letting the Tao direct the course instead of trying to direct the course of Tao. The “reverse ride” evokes the idea of a childlike trustfulness, which is the soul of the passive way.

Now we come to the stage of reinforced fruition. In the preceding stage, it was the flowering of the withered tree that created a spring for itself; and it was in the clouds that the man made his home. In the present stage, we find the new spring spreading to the three realms, as the following stanza shows:

There is no conflict between the Buddhas and all the living beings.
The mountains are of themselves high as waters of themselves are low.
All distinctions in kind or in degree—what do they prove?
Wherever the partridge cries, flowers are blooming afresh!

This stanza may be called a poetic epitome of Chuang Tzu’s marvelous essay on “The Levelling of All Things.” Tung-shan has elsewhere declared, “Only he who knows that there is a Man beyond Buddha can participate in this discourse.” When a monk asked him who that “Buddha-transcending Man” is, the master answered, “not Buddha,” In the eyes of that Man, there could be no important difference between all the Buddhas and other beings. This is the message of the first line. In the second line, the keynote is in the words “of themselves.” It is none of your business that the mountains are high and the waters are deep. You are not called upon to interfere with their intrinsic qualities. You are not even warranted in passing judgment upon them or making any discriminations between them. Who are you to judge another’s servants? Or rather, what entitles you to turn subjects into objects of your judgment? Do not render to another what you would not like to have rendered to yourself.

But since you are now free of discriminating tendencies and habits, you are like the partridge which calls all kinds of flowers into blooming afresh.

The last and fifth stage is called “the fruition of fruition.” Let us recall that in the third stage you came to fruition alone, and in the fourth you and the world came to fruition together. But Tung-shan would not stop even there! Like a lark in the morning, he continues to soar till he can soar no more. Nor can he report in positive terms his experience this time:

As soon as your antennae begin to stir, it is already an intolerable misery.
The slightest intention to pursue Buddahood is a cause for shame.
In the endless empty eons nobody has ever intimately known
That which journeyed South visiting fifty-three enlightened ones.

What an agonizing ideal of perfection is here presented! Even the hardly felt first motions of self-complacency and selfseeking are to be nipped in the bud. However, the tension of the first couplet is relieved in the second couplet. If we do not have a clear and intimate knowledge of our true Self, we can console ourselves with the fact that nobody else since the beginning of time has actually known him. Or perhaps he does not stand in front of us to be an object of our knowledge? Then he is not for us to know but for us to be.

The very fact that Tung-shan should have placed this stanza at the summit of spirituality shows that he is of the same mind with Lo-han Kuei-ch’eng who was to declare, “Unknowing is the greatest intimacy!”

In this connection, let me quote what Thomas Merton has written on Chuang Tzu. “Chuang Tzu,” he writes, “looked on life as a whole—and as a mystery—that could not be grasped merely in a clear doctrine, with logical explanations of the ways things are, implemented by orderly social customs and patterns of behavior. He reached out for something more, something which could not be expressed, and yet could be lived: the ineffable Tao.” As Tung-shan was in the lineage of Shih-t’ou, whose affinity with Chuang Tzu is well-known, it is little wonder that these words from Merton on Chuang Tzu seem to fit Tung-shan so well.

Tung-shan’s ultimate ideal transcends even enlightenment. As he wrote:

Wonderful is the eternal reality
Beyond delusion and enlightenment.3

It is beyond all intermutabilities or polarities, such as host and guest, the noumenal and the phenomenal, silence and speech, the via positiva and the via negativa, action and non-action, subitism and gradualism, motion and rest, the inner and the outer. To illustrate the subtlety of his thought, a single sample will suffice:

True eternity emerges in an endless flow.4

Many of his subtlest ideas are to be found in his long gatha which he presented to his disciple Ts’ao-shan on transmitting the Dharma seal to him. However, these ideas belong to the speculative philosophy, not to mystical realization. For they are mostly idealistic aspirations, not experiential insights like those embodied in the gatha on the occasion of his enlightenment. In the gatha to Ts’ao-shan, the most interesting couplet is found near the conclusion:

Keep your good deeds hidden and your function secret;
That you may appear as a stupid and dull-witted man.

From this you can see what a practical and shrewd teacher Tung-shan was! Not only the mystical insights of Lao Tzu but also his practical roguishness seems to run in the blood of this great master of Ch’an!

Superficially, his constant recurrence to the five stages of spiritual life might seem to run counter to the spirit of his great ancestor Ch’ing-yüan, who had no use for “stages and degrees.” Yet, we should remember that in the hands of Tung-shan they were avowedly used as expedients of teaching. So long as they are regarded as temporary devices, they have their proper place in eternal Reality. It is only when they are mistaken for eternal categories that they become as obtrusive as a sore finger.

Tung-shan was above all a great teacher with his attention wholly on the needs of his disciples. He remained a selfless teacher up to the very end of his earthly life. The scene of his last days is most touching. Sometime in the spring of the year 869, he fell sick. A monk asked him, “While you are sick, is there still someone who is never sick?” He replied, “There is.” “Does the never-sick one look at you?” “Rather it is for this old monk to look at him.” “How do you look at him?” “When this old monk is looking, I see no sickness anywhere.” This was a Ch’anish way of saying that the never-sick one is none other than his true self. To put it in another way, only his Nirmanakaya or transformation form is sick, while his Dharmakaya remains healthy and whole, and, being unborn, cannot die. When he felt it was time for him to go, he had his head shaved, took a bath, put on his robe, rang the bell to bid farewell to the community, and sat up till he breathed no more. To all appearances he had died. Thereupon the whole community burst out crying grievously as little children do at the death of their mother. Suddenly, the master opened his eyes and said to the weeping monks, “We leavers of homes are supposed to be detached from all things transitory. In this consists true spiritual life. To live is to work, to die is to rest. What is the use of grieving and moaning?” He then ordered a “stupidity-purifying meal” for the whole community. Sensing that their beloved master meant to leave them after that liturgical meal, they were not in a particular hurry to eat it. So they took seven days to prepare it. The master participated in the meal with them. After the meal, he said to them, “Please make no fuss over me! Be calm, as befitting a family of monks!

Generally speaking, when anyone is at the point of going, he has no use for noise and commotion.” Thereupon he returned to the Abbot’s room, where he sat up as in meditation till he passed away. It is interesting to see how he kept his spirit of independence and matter-of-factness right up to the end.



1) In order to understand the real meaning of this word, let the reader study another passage: He said to his community, “Only he who knows the Person beyond and above the Buddhas can participate in this discourse.” A monk asked, “Who is the Person beyond and above the Buddhas? “He is not a Buddha,” the master replied.

2) Ts’ao-shan states the five positions are as follows: (1) center signifies the Void; (2) peripherysignifies the phenomenal world; (3) the central covered by the peripheral signifies turning one’s back to the Principle in pursuit of empirical facts; (4) The central revealed through the peripheral signifies leaving the realm of empirical facts to return to the center; and (5) center and periphery united signifies responding invisibly to all situations without falling into any, transcending contamination and purity, the central and the peripheral. This is called the great Tao of the ineffable Void, the true school of NonAttachment.

3) The translation here is borrowed from Lu K’uan Yü, Ch’an and Zen Teaching, First Series (London, 1961), p. 152.

4) Literally, it means: “True eternity never ceases to flow and permeate.” But the translation in the text, taken from Lu, ibid., p. 152, cannot be improved.




Dongshan and the Teaching of Suchness
by Taigen Dan Leighton
Article for the book, Zen Masters, edited by Steven Heine and Dale Wright (Oxford University Press, 2010)




Dialogues of Tung-shan
Translated by Thomas Cleary
In: The five houses of Zen, 1997


Tung-shan asked a monk, “Where have you come from?”

The monk replied, “From a journey to a mountain.”

Tung-shan asked, “And did you reach the peak?”

The monk said, “Yes.”

Tung-shan asked, “Was there anyone on the peak?”

The monk answered, “No.”

Tung-shan said, “Then you didn’t reach the peak.”

The monk retorted, “If I didn’t reach the peak, how could I know there was no one there?”

Tung-shan said, “I had doubted this fellow.”


As Tung-shan was eating some fruit with Tai, leader of the assembly, he posed this question: “There is one thing supporting heaven and earth; absolutely black, it is always in the midst of activity, yet activity cannot contain it. Where is the fault?”

Tai answered, “The fault is in the activity.”

Tung-shan had the fruit tray removed.


Yun-chu built a hut on the mountain peak and didn’t come down to the communal hall for days. Tung-shan asked him, “Why haven’t you been coming for meals recently?”

Yun-chu said, “An angel comes every day bringing me an offering.”

Tung-shan said, “I thought you were an enlightened man, but you still have such a view. Come see me this evening.”

That evening Yun-chu went to Tung-shan, who called him by name. When Yun-chu responded, Tung-shan said, “Don’t think good, don’t think bad—what is this?”

Yun-chu returned to his hut and sat in complete silence and stillness, so the angel couldn’t find him. After three days like this, the angel disappeared.


When Ts’ao-shan left Tung-shan, Tung-shan asked him, “Where are you going?”

Ts’ao-shan said, “To an unchanging place.”

Tung-shan retorted, “If it is an unchanging place, how can there be any going?”

Ts’ao shan replied, “The going is also unchanging.”


Tung-shan’s Self-Admonition

Don’t seek fame or fortune, glory or prosperity. Just pass this life as is, according to circumstances. When the breath is gone, who is in charge? After the death of the body, there is only an empty name.

When your clothes are worn, repair them over and over; when you have no food, work to provide. How long can a phantomlike body last? Would you increase your ignorance for the sake of its idle concerns?


Tung-shan’s Five Ranks: Ts’ao-shan’s Elucidation

The absolute state is relative; when it is discerned in the relative, this is fulfillment of both meanings.

The fact that the absolute state is relative is because it is not the opposite of any thing. But even though it is not the opposite of any thing, nevertheless it is there.

When there is no function in the absolute, then it is relative; total function is completeness. This is “both meanings.”

What is “total”? One who does not look back is one who has attained. The absolute state does not come from illumination: it is so whether or not a buddha emerges in the world. That is why all sages resort to the absolute state to attain realization.

The relative within the absolute is inherent in this state; above all, don’t cause disturbance.

When students choose solitary liberation outside things and stand up before the sages and declare that this is the absolute state, ultimately complete, in reality they are limiting the absolute state. Sayings like this are what the ancients referred to as the traces of passing still remaining. They have not yet attained the unspoken within the spoken. It is said, furthermore, that this is not the absolute state, because there is something said in the words. This could be called defective integration; it cannot be called mutual integration.

The relative state, though relative, still fulfills both meanings; discerned within conditions, this is the unspoken within the spoken.

This is because no aim is defined in function; when no aim is defined, that means it is really not fixed function.

The relative state, though relative, still fulfills both meanings in that there is no thing and no attachment in the function; this is both meanings. Although it is clarified in function, because it is not done violence in speech, here one can speak all day and yet it is as if one had not spoken.

The relative state is actually complete; this also involves being unattached in the midst of conditions.

There may be emergence in the absolute; this is the spoken within the unspoken.

Emergence in the absolute does not take in conditions; this is like Yao-shan’s saying, “I have a statement that has never been spoken to anyone.” Tao-wu said, “They come along together.” Here he understood subtly. There are many examples like this. Things must come forth in combination, without confusion of noble and base. This is called the spoken within the unspoken. Also, in reference to “I have a statement that has never been spoken to anyone,” when those who engage in dialogue come forth, they must avoid rejection and attachment; both rejection and attachment are due to ignorance of what’s there.

The unspoken within statements does not define nobility, does not fall into left and right; therefore it is called emergence in the absolute.

Emergence in the absolute makes it clear that the absolute is not involved in conditions. To cite more sayings, it is like “How is it when the black bean has not sprouted?” or “There is some-one who does not breathe” or “Before conception, is there anything to say?” This is where the buddhas of the ten directions emerge. These examples are referred to as speaking of the unspoken.

There is also borrowing phenomena for temporary use. In the state of emergence within the absolute, the one who responds must clarify the comprehension of things within the relative; one cannot clarify it while plunged into the absolute state.

If you want to know how this is expressed, it is like when my late teacher Tung-shan asked a student from Korea, “Where were you before you crossed the sea?” There was no reply, so Tung-shan himself said for him, “‘Right now I’m at sea, and where am I!’”

It is also like when Tung-shan said in behalf of an elder who held forth his staff and was asked where it came from, “It’s being held forth right now! Is there anyone who can handle it?”

In these examples, though recognition is attained within conditional objects, it is not the same as the past, when mastery had not been attained. Later people may have relegated this to cultivated development, considering that to be the transcendental.

For example, students pick out this saying in answer to a question about the meaning of the founder of Zen—“I’ll tell you when a lone cow gives birth to a calf”—and say that this is emergence within the absolute state. This kind of saying cannot under any circumstances be considered emergence within the absolute. It could be called dialogue on the mystic path; it’s the same thing—this is a particular path. It cannot be called integration either, because it is obvious; even if guest and host interact, it can only be called defective integration.

There may be emergence within the relative; this is the unspoken within the spoken.

Emergence within the relative includes conditions, as in the saying “What can we call that which is right now?” As there was no answer, Tung-shan himself said, “Cannot but get it.” There are many more such examples; this is referred to as the unspoken within the spoken.

Speech comes from elements, sound and flesh, which do not define place or direction, right or wrong. That is why it is said to be understood in relational context. This is emergence within the relative.

There are many corresponding sayings. For example, “What has come thus?” And, “When mind and objects are both forgotten, then what is this?” Also, “When concentration and insight are learned equally, you clearly see the buddha nature.” These examples too, of which there are many, are referred to as the unspoken within the spoken.

Emergence within the relative is clarifying the essence within things, as in the saying “What has come thus?” and “When mind and objects are both forgotten, then what is this?” This category of saying refers to achievement to clarify state, illustrating the state in terms of the work.

Here too I used to cite corresponding examples. “What has come thus?” is one example of a saying: although it is recognized within conditions, in relational context, that is not the same as before. Also, with the example of “‘When concentration and insight are learned equally, you clearly see buddha nature’—what is this principle?” at first I would cite corresponding sayings. As for the saying “When mind and objects are both forgotten, then what is this?”—because this is an example from among the doctrines, it is not the same as mystical study. What one must do, in dealing with doctrinal examples, is to go through them into the gateway of the source. This is the exoteric side of mysticism.

In the case of the saying “Breathing out, I do not depend on conditions; breathing in, I do not abide in mental or material elements,” this is all about work; it is not the same as recognition within conditions. Here too I used to cite corresponding examples of the host withdrawing into the absolute, saying, “There is someone who has no outgoing or incoming breath,” to get others to know of the absolute.

There is, furthermore, an ultimate state of immaculate purity that includes work, which may also be called emergence within the relative. This is hard to discern; it must be picked out.

For example, a monk asked Tung-shan, “What is the mystic teaching?” Tung-shan replied, “Like the tongue of a dead man.” Another asked, “What is presented as an offering twenty-four hours a day?” He said, “No thing.” This is said to be emergence within the relative, but these two examples are not to be called emergence within the relative state. It is necessary to distinguish them individually. The saying about the “mystic teaching” could be considered the same as work and achievement, but neither saying can be referred to as the relative or as integration. It has already been made quite clear. This is using the work to illustrate the state; using the state to illustrate the work is the same as this.

There may be mutual integration: here we do not say there is the spoken or the unspoken. Here we must simply proceed directly. Here it is necessary to be peifectly fluid; things must be perfectly fluid.

With mutual integration, the force of words is neither relative nor absolute, implying neither being nor nonbeing, so they seem complete without being complete and seem lacking without lacking. One can only proceed directly; proceeding means we do not set up a goal. When they do not define a goal, words are at their most subtle. The incompleteness of the scene is a matter of ordinary sense.

An example is the saying of Tung-shan about the story of Wen-shu and tea drinking: “Would it be possible to make use of this?” And as Ts’ui-wei said, “What do you drink every day?”

However, words on the Way are all defective; people must master spoken expressions and proceed directly ahead. The spoken is coming thus; the unspoken is going thus. Among adepts, it is not that there is no speech, but it does not get into the spoken or the unspoken. This is called integrated speech. Integrated speech has no obvious aim at all.

Integration does not fall into the spoken or the unspoken, as in Yao-shan’s saying on wearing a sword, which is an integrated saying. Observe the force of the words at the moment: sometimes it is immediate and direct, and sometimes it is emptiness within differentiation. If you do not understand this subtly, you are far, far away.

To cite examples of integrated sayings, there is the saying of Wen-shu about drinking tea, and also the saying, “Where is this man gone right now?” Yun-yen said, “So what? So what?” He also said, “How about right now?” There are very many such examples.

There is also integration within work and achievement, which resembles the transcendental. It is dealt with according to the situation: for example, if you get trapped in a state of pure ethereality, then you have to realize that there are still things happening; go when you need to go, stop when you need to stop. Adapting fluidly in countless ways, do not be crude.

Now then, the forces of the words of both the one who questions and the one who replies respond to each other. None is beyond the scope of the Five Ranks. Words can be coarse or fine, however, and answers may be shallow or deep. That is why Tung-shan articulated what is not in words; in every case this was considered a necessity in response to conditions, that is all.

“People of great ignorance,” being complete in essence, are not the same as “incorrigibles.” “Incorrigibles” suffer mentally when they know there is something to do; yet even though they suffer mentally, they accomplish service. To suffer mentally means not to keep thinking of Zen masters, buddhas, or one’s own father and mother.

“Rotten people” do not resort to total burden-bearing, so they do not set up any idol.

“People of great conservation” have got their feet stuck deeply in the mud, so maintaining their discipline is not a small matter.

Integration should be like Wen-shu’s saying on drinking tea and like Tung-shan’s reply to Yun-yen’s ginger-digging saying, as well as Master An’s saying on the teaching hall and the conversation of Yao-shan and Ch’un Pu-na on washing Buddha. For the most marveous integration of all, nothing is better than Yaoshan’s answer to Tao-wu on wearing a sword, or Pai-chang’s saying “What is it?” when he was leaving the hall and the congregation was about to disperse. When Yao-shan heard this saying from far away, he said, “It’s here.”

Integration in the darkness uses work to illuminate things, and uses things to illuminate work; it uses errors to illustrate accomplishments, and uses accomplishments to illustrate errors, equally in this way. Whatever Yao-shan, Tung-shan, and all the other worthies produced that went beyond into the absolute were just marvelous expressions of mystic conversation, that is all. When they subsequently came to those who had attained a little power, they drew them into the absolute, in which context this type of saying is commonly used.

Because I have so much to do, I haven’t had the time to go into details, and have only explained a little bit. You should not slight this; if you still get frozen or stuck anywhere, you should cut through to certainty then and there. You should practice diligently, so that this thing will never be allowed to die out. Don’t reveal it carelessly, but if you meet someone who is pure and simple, who is an extraordinary vessel, then it is not to be concealed.