ZEN IRODALOM ZEN LITERATURE
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藥山惟儼 Yaoshan Weiyan (745-827 or 751-834)
(Wade-Giles:) Yueh-shan Wei-yen (?)
(Rōmaji:) Yakusan Igen
Jao-san Vej-jen mondásaiból
PDF: Tiszteletreméltó Yakusan Igen (Yaoshan)
The Record of Yaoshan Weiyen
Encounter Dialogues of Yaoshan Weiyan
Painting by 金森一咳 Kanamori Ichigai (born Osaka 1941)
Once, when the Master was sitting, a monk asked him, "What are you thinking of, [sitting there] so fixedly?"
The master answered, "I'm thinking of not thinking (思量箇不思量底 sīliàng gè bùsīliàng [Japanese: fushiryō] dǐ).”
The monk asked, "How do you think of not thinking?"
The Master answered, "Nonthinking (非思量 fēi sīliàng [Japanese: hishiryō])."
— Transmission of the Lamp,
Bielefeldt, Carl (2006), Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma, Book 66: The King of Samadhis Samadhi, Sotoshu Shumucho
The Record of Yaoshan Weiyan
Mitchell, James. Soto Zen Ancestors in China: The Recorded Teachings of Shitou
Xiqian, Yaoshan Weiyan and Yunyan Tansheng. San Francisco: Ithuriel's Spear, 2005.
PDF > Excerpts in PDF-OCR
Text used for the translation:
Wu deng hui yuan. [Wu-teng hui-yuan. Five Lamps Merged in the Source.
Compiled by Monk Pu Ji and Monk Hui Ming.] This edition edited by Yuanlei Su,
China Publishing House (Zhonghua Shu Ju), Beijing: 1984.
Master Yaoshan's family name was Han. He was born in Jiangzhou [in modern Wenxi
County, Shanxi County]. At the age of 17, he studied with Master Hui Zhao, 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, "I'm just a human. I can't be confined by all these monastic rules. I
should be able to resolve my problems by myself. There's no point in doing every little thing
according to all the specific rules."
When Yaoshan first called on Shitou, he said: "I know a little about the Buddhist sutras. I've
heard that the southern school [meant is the school of Mazu in Jiangxi Province] points
directly to people's minds so they can become Buddhas. I don't understand this and hope
you can explain it." Shitou said, "It makes no difference if I explain or not, you'll never
understand it. The situation is hopeless." Yaoshan was confused. Shitou said, "Our ways of
understanding are different, so I think you should go see Master Mazu." Yaoshan went to
Mazu and asked the same question. Mazu 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. There's nothing that can be done." Yaoshan awakened and bowed to Mazu, who asked
why he was bowing and what he had understood. Yaoshan said, "When I was with Shitou I
was like a mosquito trying to bite an iron ox." Mazu said, "If it's like that, then guard it
Three years later, Mazu asked Yaoshan, "What is your understanding these days?" He
answered, "The blinders have fallen way, I see only the truth." Mazu said, "Your new
understanding is very good. You have wholly grasped the essence: it's spread through your
arms and legs. Having this understanding, you can buckle up your belt and establish your
own monastery." "I don't dare set up a school of my own. I'm an unimportant person." Mazu
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." Yaoshan left Mazu and went back to Shitou.
One day Yaoshan was sitting on a stone. Shitou asked what he was doing. Yaoshan said he
wasn't doing anything. Shitou said, "You're just sitting here?" Yaoshan said, "Just sitting
doing nothing is doing something." Shitou asked, "What exactly do you mean by 'doing
nothing?'" Yaoshan said, "If you asked all the sages, they wouldn't be able to tell you."
Then Shitou recited a poem.
A person doesn't know what he's doing,
Lets it all happen naturally.
All the sages in history can't explain it,
And ordinary people don't understand it either.
Shitou composes a poem to approve Yaoshan's understanding. There are four lines of seven
characters in each line, with a rhyme scheme of A,A,B,A.
Sometime later, Shitou taught: "This ordinary mind isn't expressed by words and ideas."
Yaoshan said, "No words and no ideas also have nothing to do with this ordinary mind."
Shitou said, "You can't penetrate this further." Yaoshan said, "I'm like a flower growing on a
rock." [Shitou says literally, "You can't penetrate me." "Rock" of course is also Shitou's
Later, Yaoshan became the leader of a monastery in Lizhou [in Hunan Province]. Many
students came to study with him. One day Yaoshan said to Daowu, "Shaoxi Mingxi [a
student of Mazu] used to be a government official in his previous life." Daowu asked, "What
did you used to do in your last life?" Yaoshan said, "I was very weak in my last life, nothing
at all important." Daowu asked why and Yaoshan 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."
Yaoshan said to him, "Please bring my eating bowl." Yunyan said to Yaoshan, "Master
Yaoshan doesn't use his own hands and feet. How long have you been here?" Yaoshan said
to Yunyan, "It's a mistake for you to be wearing a monk's robe." Yunyan said, "I agree, but
what about you?" Yaoshan said, "I haven't anything attached." [There's nothing added on to
from the outside, such as hands and feet. In other words, Yaoshan has no outside
attachments.] Then he told Yunyan to call the attendant for him. Yunyan asked why.
Yaoshan said, "I've got a pot with one leg broken, so I want him to hold up the leg for me."
[Yaoshan 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.] Yunyan said, "I'll give you just my one hand;
you don't need a whole hand and body for this purpose." Yaoshan gave the whole thing up.
On another occasion, after the gardener had finished planting some vegetables. Yaoshan
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?" Yaoshan said, "You still have a mouth, don't you?" The gardener didn't know what to
One day Daowu and Yunyan were out walking with Yaoshan, who pointed at two trees with
his finger. One was healthy and the other was withered up. He asked Daowu, "Which is
better, the withered tree or the healthy tree?" Daowu answered, "The healthy one is better."
Yaoshan said, "So everything around it becomes bright and colorful." Then he asked Yunyan
the same question. Yunyan said, "The withered tree is better." Yaoshan said, "So everything
around it looks gray and withered up." An attendant named Gao appeared suddenly.
Yaoshan asked him the same question. Gao said, "The withered one is withered and the
healthy one is healthy." Yaoshan turned to Daowu and Yunyan and said, "You were both
Someone asked Yaoshan, "How can one avoid becoming confused by all kinds of outside
appearances?" Yaoshan said, "Just leave them alone and they won't trouble you." The person
said he didn't understand. Yaoshan said, "What outside appearances are troubling you right
Someone asked Yaoshan, "What’s the most important thing about Buddhist conduct?"
Yaoshan said, "The main thing is not to flatter anyone." This person asked, "What would
your mind be like if you never flattered anyone?" Yaoshan said, "Even if you were offered the
entire country, your mind would never change."
A monk came back to see Yaoshan. Yoashan asked his name. The monk said, "My name is
Changtan." Yaoshan yelled, "You used to be Changtan and you'll always remain Changtan as
well!" [Maybe Yaoshan means that Changtan hasn't made any progress while he was away.]
Yaoshan 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." Yasohan said, "Ring the bell." As soon
as the monks had gathered for the lecture, Yaoshan 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. Yaoshan 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 Yaoshan asked Yunyan what he was doing. "I just eat and shit." [Literally: I just
bury shit."] Yaoshan said, "Where is your real self?" Yunyan said, "It's right in front of you."
Yaoshan: "For whom are you so busy?" Yunyan: "For my body, which eats and shits." Yaoshan:
"Why not make the body and self fit together.?" Yunyan: "Don't get any false ideas about this
body." Yaoshan: "Can't I put it this way?" Yunyan said, "It's ok with me." Yaoshan said, "Are
you still just eating and shitting?"
One day after Yaoshan 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 notthinking?"
"By not thinking."
A student asked Yaoshan, "I've got to go home, is it ok?" Yaoshan 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." Yaoshan said, "But you have to go
home, and therefore I will show you how to live without food." The student said, "Please tell
me." Yaoshan said, "When you come to the hall in the morning and evening, don't eat a
single grain of rice."
Someone asked Yaoshan, "What is nirvana?" [Nirvana means here the state after death.]
Yaoshan said, "What was your name before you were born?"
Yaoshan asked a monk, "Where are you from?" "From Hunan." Yaoshan asked, "Is Dongting
Lake full of water?" The monk said no. The Yaoshan said, "Why isn't it full of water after so
much rain?" The monk had nothing to say.
Yaoshan asked a monk, "Where are you coming from?" "From Jiangxi." Yaoshan struck his
meditation seat three times with his stick. The monk said, "Now I know where I should go."
Yaoshan lowered his stick and the monk was silent. Yaoshan called the attendant to give
the monk some tea. He was very tired from having travelled such a long way.
Yaoshan 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." Yaoshan said, "Then if I said
that you hadn't been to see Shitou 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." Yaoshan said, "I've got to look after some abbot's affairs." Pang got
up to leave. Yaoshan 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." Yaoshan 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).
Yaoshan, said, "The ancestors told us to protect ourselves.. If the Three Poisons don't affect
us. We shout 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 Shitou 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."
Yaoshan and Yunyan were walking on a mountain. Yaoshan's sword made a noise at his side.
Yunyan asked what was making the noise. Yaoshan drew his sword and struck the air with
A monk named Zun was cleaning the Buddha [maybe a Buddha figure on the altar]. Yaoshan
said, "Please continue to clean the Buddha. Can you clean the other one too?" [Yaoshan
means the Buddha inside the monk.] Zun said, "Please bring it to me." Yaoshan was silent.
A monk who was a teacher said to Yaoshan, "I've got a problem – can you help me with it?"
Yaoshan said, "I'll solve it for you when I'm in the hall." [The meditation hall, also used for
lectures.] Later, in the hall, Yaoshan said, "Where is the teacher who's got a problem?" The
monk stepped out from the group. Yaoshan arose from his meditation seat, grasped the
monk and said, "Everybody pay attention: this monk has a problem." Then Yaoshan pushed
the monk aside and returned to the abbot's quarters.
Yaoshan asked the head cook, "How long have you been here?" The cook answered, "Three
years." Yaoshan said, "I don't know you." The cook went away, feeling puzzled and angry.
A person asked Yaoshan, "What should be done in case of an emergency?" Yaoshan said,
"Don't turn your attention to other matters." The same person asked, "What should I lay
upon this altar?" Yaoshan said, "Nothing."
Yaoshan 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 yao means "medicine" and is the same
character as in Yaoshan'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 Yaoshan, 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." Yaoshan asked him to repeat the
exact words. When the monk had finished, Yaoshan 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.
Yaoshan 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." Yaoshan
said, "You go ahead and calculate and let me watch for awhile." The monk didn't respond.
Yaoshan drew the character for Buddha and asked Daowu what it was. Daowu said, "It's
Buddha." Yaoshan said, "You talk too much."
A person asked Yaoshan, "I'm not quite clear about what I'm doing, so please give me some
instruction." Then Yaoshan 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. Yaoshan 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. Yaoshan said, "Bring in
some light" [so Yaoshan could find out who the monk was]. But the monk had already
disappeared back into the group.
Yaoshan 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." Yaoshan 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 Yaoshan, "Before Bodhidharma came, did chan exist in this country?"
Yaoshan said yes. "If so, why did the Ancestor come here?" Yaoshan said, "He came here
precisely because chan existed in this country."
One day after Yaoshan had finished reading a sutra, a monk said, "You're always forbidding
people to read the sutras, so why are you reading one now?" Yaoshan said, "I wan to hide
my eyes." [So I won't see anything — in other words, to stop thinking.] 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 Yaoshan, "There's a large herd of deer on flat terrain without cover. How
would you shoot the leader?" Yaoshan said, "Arrow!" [He pretends to pull out his bow and
shoot a deer.] The monk fell down to the ground. Yaoshan said, "Attendant, carry this dead
person away." The monk left. Yaoshan said, "His situation is quite hopeless if he keeps
playing these little tricks."
The head official at Langzhou was Li Ao. He once asked Yaoshan, "What's your family name?"
Yaoshan said, "It's the season right now." Li 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 Han." [Han means "cold " in Chinese.] When Yaoshan 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 Re?" [Re means "hot" in Chinese.]
"The Chan master Yaoshan Weiyan in Conversation with the Governon Li Ao"
by 龔賢 Gong Xian (ca. 1618–1689)
One evening Yaoshan 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 Yaoshan's temple. The students said,
"It was the teacher who shouted last night at the top of the mountain." Li Ao wrote a poem
Choosing a quiet place to live
Fits your wild character.
You don't have to welcome or see anybody off.
Sometimes at the top of the mountain
You can shout under the moon and clouds!
On November 6th in the eighth year of Tai He [834 CE], when Yaoshan was dying, he
suddenly shouted, "Now the meditation hall is going to collapse!" The monks began looking
around for wooden poles to support the structure. Yaoshan raised his hand and said, "No, no,
you don't understand," and then he died.
His memorial tower was built on the east side of the temple. The Tang Emperor Wenzong
granted him the posthumous name Hong Dao, or "Great Master." The pagoda was called
Hua Cheng — "A Place for the Teaching."
IN: Zen's Chinese heritage: the masters and their teachings
by Andy Ferguson
Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000. pp. 122-126.
YAOSHAN WEIYAN (751–834) was the student of Shitou Xiqian. He came from ancient Taozhou (now the city of Xinjiang in Shanxi Province). He left home at the age of seventeen to enter the congregation of Zen master Xishan Huizhao. Later, a Vinaya master named Xicao ordained Yaoshan at Mt. Heng. An earnest student, Yaoshan mastered the sutras and shastras and strictly adhered to the Vinaya rules. But eventually, he grew tired of the repetitive and petty observances of the Vinaya and resolved to find a new teacher. He first went to see Shitou Xiqian, who was then living on Mt. Heng.
Yaoshan first went to Shitou Xiqian’s place. He asked, “I have a general understanding of the three vehicles and the twelve divisions of scripture. Now I want to find out about the southern teaching of pointing directly at mind, seeing self-nature, and becoming a buddha. Truly, I’m not clear about this teaching and I ask for the master’s compassionate instruction.”
Shitou said, “You can’t attain it this way. You can’t attain it not this way. Trying to attain it this way or not this way, it can’t be attained. So what will you do?”
Yaoshan was confused.
Shitou then said, “Your affinity is not at this place. Go to Master Mazu’s place.”
Yaoshan went and paid his respects to Mazu in accordance with Shitou’s instructions. He then posed the same question to Mazu that he had previously presented to Shitou.
Mazu said, “Sometimes I teach it by raising my eyebrows and blinking my eyes. Sometimes I don’t teach it by raising my eyebrows and blinking my eyes. Sometimes raising my eyebrows and blinking my eyes is it, sometimes raising my eyebrows and blinking my eyes isn’t it. So what will you do?”
At these words Yaoshan was enlightened. He then bowed to Mazu.
Mazu said, “What principle have you observed that makes you bow?”
Yaoshan said, “When I was at Shitou’s place, it was like a mosquito on an iron bull.”
Mazu said, “Since you are thus, uphold and sustain it well.”
Yaoshan then served as Mazu’s attendant for three years.
One day, Mazu asked him, “What have you seen lately?”
Yaoshan said, “Shedding the skin completely, leaving only the true body.”
Mazu said, “Your attainment can be said to be in accord with the mindbody, spreading through its four limbs. Since it’s like this, you should bind your things to your stomach and go traveling to other mountains.”
Yaoshan said, “Who am I to speak of being head of a Zen mountain?”
Mazu said, “That’s not what I mean. Those who haven’t gone on a long pilgrimage can’t reside [as an abbot]. There’s no advantage to seeking advantage. Nothing is accomplished by seeking something. You should go on a journey and not remain in this place.”
Yaoshan then left Mazu and returned to Shitou.
One day, as Yaoshan was sitting, Shitou asked him, “What are you doing here?”
Yaoshan said, “I’m not doing a thing.”
Shitou said, “Then you’re just sitting leisurely.”
Yaoshan said, “If I were sitting leisurely I’d be doing something.”
Shitou said, “You say you’re not doing anything. What is it that you’re not doing?”
Yaoshan said, “A thousand sages don’t know.”
Shitou then wrote a verse of praise that said:
Long abiding together, not knowing its name,
Just going on, practicing like this,
Since ancient times the sages don’t know.
Will searching everywhere now make it known?
Later, Shitou offered an instruction, saying, “Words do not encroach upon it.”
Yaoshan said, “No words does not encroach upon it.”
Shitou said, “Here, I can’t stick a needle into it.”
Yaoshan said, “Here, it’s like I’m growing flowers on a bare rock.”
Shitou approved Yaoshan’s answer.
Later the master lived on Mt. Yao in Lizhou and a sea of students assembled there.
For a long time Yaoshan did not enter the hall to speak.
The temple director said to him, “The monks have been waiting for a long time for the master to give them some instruction.”
Yaoshan said, “Ring the bell!”
The monks assembled in the hall.
Yaoshan then got down from the Dharma seat and went back to the abbot’s quarters.
The temple director followed him and said, “Master, since you consented to speak to the monks, why didn’t you say anything?”
Yaoshan said, “Sutras have sutra teachers. Shastras have shastra teachers. Why are you unhappy with me?”
A monk said to Yaoshan, “I have doubt. I ask for the master to resolve it for me.”
Yaoshan said, “Wait until I go into the hall tonight to speak. Then I’ll resolve it.”
That evening, Yaoshan entered the hall. When the assembly was ready, he said, “Where is the monk who asked me today to resolve his doubt?”
The monk came forward and stood there.
Yaoshan got down from the Dharma seat, grabbed the monk, and said, “Everyone! This monk has doubt!”
Yaoshan then released the monk and went back to his room. ([Later,] Xuansha said, “Do you say he resolved the monk’s doubt or not? If he resolved it, where was it resolved? If he didn’t resolve it, then say whether your own doubts were resolved when he went into the hall.”)
One night, the lamps remained unlit as the monks assembled to hear Yaoshan speak.
Yaoshan said to the monks, “I have a single phrase. I’ll tell it to you when the bull gives birth to a calf.”
Then a monk said, “The bull has given birth to a calf. Why don’t you say it?”
Yaoshan said, “Bring a lamp!”
But the monk had gone back into the assembly and couldn’t be seen. ([Later,] Yunyan brought up this story to Dongshan. Dongshan said, “That monk was enlightened, but he wouldn’t allow others to pay him respect.”)
Yaoshan asked a monk who had just arrived at the temple, “Where do you come from?”
The monk said, “From Hunan.”
Yaoshan then asked, “Is Dongting Lake full or not?”
The monk said, “It’s not full.”
Yaoshan said, “There’s been a lot of rain lately. Why isn’t it full?”
The monk didn’t answer. ([Later,] Daowu said, “It’s full.” Yunyan said, “Clear, deep earth.” Dongshan said, “In what eon was it ever lacking?” Yunmen said, “It’s here.”)
In the second month of [the year 834], Zen master Yaoshan called out, “The Dharma hall is collapsing! The Dharma hall is collapsing!”
The monks all grabbed poles and tried to prop up the Dharma hall.
Yaoshan lifted his hand and said, “You don’t understand what I mean,” and passed away. The master was eighty-four years old and had been a monk for sixty years. His disciples built his memorial stupa on the east side of the hall. He received the posthumous name “Great Teacher Vast Way.” His stupa was named “Transforming City.”
Translated by Thomas Cleary
In: The five houses of Zen, 1997
MASTER GUIDES ONLY teach preservation; if greed or anger arises, you must ward it off, not letting it touch you. If you want to know how to do this, then you must bear up like a dead tree or a rock.
There are really no ramifications to be attained, but even so, you should still see for yourself. It will not do to deny verbal expression entirely. I am now speaking to you in order to reveal that which has no speech; that originally has no features like ears or eyes.
Someone asked, “How is it that there are six courses of mundane existence?”
Yao-shan said, “Although I am within this circle, I am basically not affected.”
Someone asked, “How is it when one does not comprehend the afflictions within one’s being?”
Yao-shan said, “What are the afflictions like? I want you to think about it. There is even a type who just memorizes words on paper; most of them are confused by the scriptures and treatises. I have never read the scriptures or treatises. You have fluctuating minds simply because you are confused by things and go through changes, at a loss, inwardly unstable. Even before you have learned a single saying, half an expression, a scripture, or a treatise, already you talk this way about ‘enlightenment,’ ‘nirvana,’ the mundane and the transmundane; if you understand in this way, then this is birth and death. If you are not bound by this gain and loss, then there is no birth and death. You see teachers of discipline talking about stuff like ‘naihsargika’ and ‘dukkata’—this above all is the root of birth and death!
“Even so, when you examine birth and death thoroughly, it cannot be grasped. From the buddhas above to insects below, all have these differences of long and short, good and bad, big and small. If it doesn’t come from outside, where is there some idler digging hells to await you?
“Do you want to know the path of hell? It is boiling and broiling right now. Do you want to know the path of hungry ghosts? It is presently being more false than true, so people cannot trust you. Do you want to know the path of animality? It is presently disregarding humanity and justice and not distinguishing friend from stranger—do you need to wear fur and horns, to be butchered and hung upside down? Do you want to know humans and angels? It is present pure conduct. To guarantee that you will escape falling into the other states, above all do not abandon this.
“This is not easily attained. You must stand atop the summit of the highest mountain and walk on the bottom of the deepest ocean. It is not easy to apply this, but only when you have done so will you have a little realization.
“All who come forward today are people of many obsessions; I am looking for a simpleton, but cannot find one. Don’t just memorize sayings in books and consider that to be your own vision and knowledge, looking down on others who do not understand. People like this are all incorrigible heretics. This mentality simply does not hit the mark; you must examine carefully and understand thoroughly.
“This kind of talk is still within the bounds of the world. Don’t waste your lives. At this point there is even more subtlety and detail; don’t consider it idle, for you should know it. Take care.”
Encounter Dialogues of Yaoshan Weiyan
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha
DOC: Treasury of the Forest of Ancestors
Great Master Yaoshan Weiyan came from Jiangzhou (now Xinjiang City) in the northern province of Shanxi. He left home at seventeen and traveled south, eventually becoming a novice under the Zen teacher Xishan Huizhao in the southeastern province of Chaozhou. (In this community the future master Baizhang Huaihai was training as a young novice at around this time, and the two were likely students together). After several years, Weiyan traveled to the famous Heng Mountain region in Hunan for his full ordination, and then remained there to study the scriptures and the codes of monastic discipline. Feeling the limitations of this approach, Weiyan resolved to find a true teacher, and so went to investigate Master Shitou who was living in the same region.
At their first meeting Weiyan said, “I have a general understanding of the 'Three Vehicles' and the 'Twelve Divisions of Scripture'. Now I'd like to find out about this 'southern' teaching of pointing directly at mind, seeing self-nature, and becoming awakened. I'm not clear about this approach – I ask for the master's compassionate instruction.”
Master Shitou said, “You can't attain it this way. You can't attain it some other way, either. Trying to attain it this way or that way, it can't be attained. What will you do?”
Weiyan didn't understand, and said nothing. Feeling that this young monk's affinity at this point might be elsewhere, Shitou suggested that he might go visit the famous Master Ma in Jiangxi. Weiyan took the advice and set off.
After entering Master Ma's community, Weiyan asked the master the same question he had asked Shitou: “I'm not yet clear about the teaching of pointing directly at mind, seeing self-nature, and realizing awakening. I sincerely ask for the master's instruction.”
Master Ma said, “Sometimes I teach it by raising my eyebrows and blinking my eyes. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes raising the eyebrows and blinking the eyes shows it. Sometimes it doesn't. What is there to do?”
At these words Weiyan had a deep realization. He stayed on at the monastery and soon became Master Ma's attendant. After three years the master sent him off on pilgrimage to visit other teachers, and Weiyan felt drawn to revisit Master Shitou. He traveled back to the Heng Mountains and settled into Shitou's community.
One day, as Weiyan was sitting, Master Shitou asked him, “What are you doing here?”
Weiyan said, “I'm not doing anything.”
The master said, “Then you're just sitting idly.”
Weiyan said, “If I were sitting idly, I'd be doing something.”
The master said, “Okay, you're not doing anything. But what is it you're not doing?”
Weiyan said, “Even a thousand sages don't know.”
The master approved.
Once when Master Shitou was giving a teaching to the community he said, “Words and actions cannot reach the truth.”
Weiyan responded, “No words and no actions also cannot reach the truth.”
The master said, “In this place, even a needle cannot be stuck in.”
Weiyan said, “In this place, it's like trying to plant flowers on a bare rock.”
The master approved.
After studying with Master Shitou, Weiyan eventually settled on Medicine Mountain (Yaoshan) in Lizhou (more northern Hunan), and began to teach a small community there. He first started a training center by converting a small shed for housing oxen into a monk's hall. His place was known for the austere simplicity of the living conditions, and it was said that there were sometimes less than ten students living there, but that their practice was wholehearted.
One of the rarely recorded instances of a classical master commenting on sitting practice occurred when a student asked Master Yaoshan Weiyan, “What do you think about when you're engaged in steadfast, immovable sitting?”
Master Yaoshan replied, “Thinking, not thinking.”
The student asked, “How do you do this thinking, not thinking?”
Yaoshan said, “Beyond thinking.”
The present mind is already fading. No- mind has not yet appeared.
In the vitality of this lifetime, (the foundation of) purity is the ultimate.
Dogen also said:
In beyond-thinking there is someone who sustains you.
Out beyond theories of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
Once a monk asked Master Yaoshan, “How can I avoid being confused by all kinds of outside appearances?”
The master said, “Just leave them alone and they won't bother you.”
The monk was unsatisfied with this. The master asked, “What 'outside appearances' are confusing you right now?”
A monk once asked Master Yaoshan, “What is nirvana?”
The master said, “What was your name before you were born?”
Once a monk said to Master Yaoshan, “I have doubt. I ask the master to resolve it for me.”
The master said, “Wait until I go into the hall tonight to speak. Then I'll resolve it for you.”
That evening the master entered the hall. When the community had assembled he said, “Where is the monk who asked me today to resolve his doubt?”
The monk came forward. The master got down from the teaching seat, grabbed the monk, and said, “Everyone! This monk has doubt!”
The master then released the monk and went back to his room.
The community of Yaoshan had minimal resources; often they didn't have an excess of lamp-oil. Being frugal, the master would usually have the assembly gather in the dark. One such night the community gathered to hear the master speak.
Master Yaoshan said, “I have a single phrase (of teaching). I'll tell it to you when the iron bull gives birth to a calf.”
A monk came forward and said, “An iron bull is giving birth to a calf right now. Why don't you say it?”
The master exclaimed, “Light the lamps!”
The monk had already disappeared into the dark assembly.
For a long time Master Yaoshan had not entered the hall to give a talk. The monastery director appealed to him saying, “The community has been waiting eagerly to hear a teaching from you for quite a while.”
The master said, “Well, strike the bell.”
The bell was rung and the community gathered. The master ascended the teaching seat, sat there for a while, then got down and returned to his room.
The director followed after him and said, “Master you agreed to give a teaching to the community. Why didn't you offer us a single word?”
The master replied, “There are scripture teachers for scriptures, and philosophy teachers for philosophy. What do you want from this old monk?”
A monk once asked Master Yaoshan, “Did the essence of the awakened way exist here before Bodhidharma came from India?”
The master said, “Yes, it did.”
The monk asked, “Then why did he come?”
The master said, “He came exactly because it was here already.”
Once a novice named Gao was visiting Master Yaoshan's place. The master asked him, “Where are you coming from?”
Gao said, “From South Peak.”
The master asked, “And where are you headed?”
Gao said, “To Jiangling to receive the full ordination precepts.”
The master asked, “What is the point of receiving the precepts?”
Gao replied, “To become free of birth and death.”
The master said, “There is someone who doesn't receive the precepts and has no birth and death to get free from. Do you know this person?”
Gao said, “Then what is the use of getting the precepts?”
The master was silent. Gao bowed and withdrew.
Then Yaoshan's senior student Yuanzhi, who had heard the conversation, came up beside the master. Master Yaoshan said, “That novice has some life in him.”
Yuanzhi said, “I'm not completely convinced. Maybe you should test him again.”
When evening came Yaoshan entered the hall to give a talk. He asked, “Where is the novice I spoke with earlier today?”
Gao came forth, and the master said to him, “You're a traveler - I hear that the capital Chang'an is very busy. What do you think?”
Gao said, “My province is peaceful.”
The master said, “Is your attainment from reading scriptures or from hearing lectures?”
Gao said, “I didn't attain anything from reading scriptures or hearing lectures.”
The master said, “Many people don't read scriptures or listen to lectures. How come they don't have realization?”
Gao said, “I wouldn't say they don't have it, only that they are not willing to accept it.”
One day the lay practitioner Pangyun, who had studied with both Master Shitou and Master Ma, came to visit Master Yaoshan. The master asked him, “What is your understanding of the 'one vehicle'?”
“Everyday I just feed myself,” said Pang. “How should I know about the 'one vehicle'?”
Yaoshan replied, “Then I'd say you've never really seen Master Shitou. Is that true?”
Pang said, “You just drop one thing and pick up another. What kind of skill is that?”
Yaoshan said, “As abbot, I have many affairs to attend to.”
Pang got up to leave. Then Yaoshan said, “Dropping one thing and picking up another is actually quite useful.”
Pang said, “Now I see this question about the 'one vehicle' was skillful after all. I'm afraid I've blundered and it's gotten lost.”
The monk Zun, who was serving as altar attendant in Yaoshan's community, was washing buddha statues. The master came by and said, “I see you've washed this one; can you wash the other buddha, too?”
Zun said, “Please hand me the other buddha.”
The master stopped questioning.
Once a monk asked Master Yaoshan, “What is the most precious treasure of the way?”
The master said, “Not to flatter others for your own benefit.”
The monk asked, “What is it like to not flatter others?”
The master said, “”Even if an entire nation is offered, you turn it down.”
Once the local governor Li Ao paid a visit to Medicine Mountain to meet Master Yaoshan. He asked the master, “What is ethical conduct, meditative absorption, and transcendent wisdom?”
The master replied, “This impoverished monk doesn't have such useless furniture.”
Another time Governor Li asked Master Yaoshan, “What is the way?”
The master replied, “Clouds in the blue sky, water in the bucket.”
Li Ao became a student of Master Yaoshan, and once wrote a poem
describing his teacher:
Living in a quiet, secluded place
fits your untamed character.
No need to welcome anyone, or see them off.
From the top of the mountain – a sudden shout
As the moon emerges from the clouds.
Jao-san Vej-jen összegyűjtött mondásaiból
Fordította: Terebess Gábor
Vö.: Folyik a híd, Officina Nova, Budapest, 1990, 82-83. oldal
Jao-san szútrát olvasott, és hiába jelentette be a segédje, hogy Li-ao, Langcsou elöljárója van itt, oda se figyelt rá.
– Jobb hallani a nevet, mint látni az arcot – mondta mérgesen az elöljáró, és sarkon fordult.
– Úgy látszik, inkább a fülednek hiszel, mint a szemednek – nézett föl Jüe-san.
Jao-sant megkörnyékezte egy szerzetes:
– Kétségeim vannak, szeretném, ha eloszlatnád.
– Várj az esti tanítóbeszédig, akkor eloszlatom.
Leszállt az este, a szerzetesek összegyűltek a csarnokban, a mester pedig felült a szószékre:
– Hol van az a szerzetes, aki a kétségeit akarta eloszlatni?
A szerzetes előlépett. Jao-san leszállt a székéből és vállon ragadta:
– Ezt nézzétek meg, itt egy szerzetes, akinek kétségei vannak!
Azzal elengedte és visszatért a szobájába.
Jao-san elbúcsúztatta Pang Jünt [740-808], és tíz tanítványát küldte, hogy kísérjék a kapuig.
Ott Pang Jün megállt a sűrű hóesésben:
– Csodás egy hóhullás! – mondta. – Épp a helyére hull mindegyik pehely.
Egy Csüan nevű tanítvány megkérdezte:
– Mutasd, hová hullanak!
Pang Jün az arcába csapott.
Terebess Gábor kapcsolt haikuja:
vihar dúl vagy sem
a saját helyére hull