The Closing Day
Dear friends, I congratulate you all on the conclusion of this Ch’an week. You have completed your merit-(orious training) and in just a moment, the gathering will come to an end and I will have to congratulate you.
According to the ancients, the opening and closing of a Ch’an week do not mean much, for it is (more) important to hold a hua t’ou continuously (in mind) until one’s complete enlightenment. At present, no matter whether you have been awakened or not, we must follow the procedure set forth in the (standing) rules and regulations. During these (two) Ch’an weeks, you did not make any difference between day and night, because your (only) aim was your own awakening. The (ultimate) purpose of the meeting was, therefore, to produce men of ability for (spreading) the Buddhist doctrine. If you have wasted your time without achieving any result, you will indeed have missed a (great) opportunity.
Now, the (Venerable) Abbot and group leaders will follow the ancient rules and regulations and will examine the result of your training. I hope you will not talk wildly (when questioned); you should, in the presence of others, give in a sentence (a summary of) your achievement. If your replies are in order, the (Venerable) Abbot will confirm your realization. The ancients said:
“(Self-) cultivation takes an unimaginable time
(While) enlightenment in an instant is attained.
If the training is efficient, enlightenment will be attained in one finger-snap.
In days gone by, Ch’an master Hui Chueh of Lang Yeh mountain, had a woman disciple who called on him for instruction. The master taught her to examine into the sentence: “Take no notice.” She followed his instruction strictly without backsliding. One day, her house caught fire, but she said: “Take no notice.” Another day, her son fell into the water and when a bystander called her, she said: “Take no notice.” She observed exactly her master’s instruction by laying down all causal thoughts.
One day, as her husband lit the fire to make fritters of twisted dough, she threw into the pan full of boiling (vegetable) oil a batter which made a noise. Upon hearing the noise, she was instantaneously enlightened. Then she threw the pan of oil on the ground, clapped her hands and laughed. Thinking she was insane, her husband scolded her and said: “Why do you do this? Are you mad?” She replied: “Take no notice.” Then she went to master Hui Chueh and asked him to verify her achievement. The master confirmed that she had obtained the holy fruit.
Dear friends, those of you who have been awakened (to the truth), please come forward and say something about your realization.
(After a long while, as no one came forward, Master Hsu Yun left the hall. The (Venerable) Dharma master Ying Tz’u continued to hold the examination, and when it was over, Master Hsu Yun returned to the hall to instruct the assembly.)
Master Hsu Yun then said;
In this tumultous world and (especially in this) bustling and disorderly city, how can one have spare time for, and thought of, coming here to sit in meditation and to hold a hua t’ou? (However), the deep good roots possessed by the people of Shanghai, in combination with the flourishing Buddha Dharma and the unsurpassed co-operating cause have made this great opportunity available for our gathering.
From olden time till now, we have had the Teaching, the Discipline (Vinaya), the Pure Land and the Esoteric (Yoga) Schools. A rigorous comparison between these schools and the Ch’an Sect proves the superiority of the latter. Earlier, I also spoke of this unsurpassed Sect, but owing to the present decline of Buddha Dharma, men of ability are not available. Formerly, in my long journeys on foot I went to and stayed at various monasteries but what I see now cannot be compared with what I saw then. I am really ashamed of my ignorance, but the (Venerable) Abbot who is very compassionate, and the group leaders who are very courteous, have pushed me forward (to preside over this meeting). This task should have been entrusted to the (venerable) old Dharma master Ying Tz’u who is an (acknowledged) authority on both Ch’an and the scriptures and is an (experienced) senior. I am now a useless man and cannot do anything, and I hope you will all follow him and push forward without backsliding.
Ancestor Kuei Shan said: “It is regrettable that we were born at the end of the semblance period, so long after the passing of the holy period, when the Buddha Dharma is disregarded and when people pay little attention to it. I am (however) expressing my humble opinion to make the coming generation understand it.”
The Dharma name of (Master) Kuei Shan was Ling Yu; he was a native of Fu Chien province. He followed Ancestor Pai Chang and realized his (self-) mind (at the latter’s monastery.) The ascetic Szu Ma saw that Kuei Shan mountain in Hunan province was auspicious and would become the meeting place for an assembly of 1,500 learned monks. At the time Kuei Shari was a verger of Pai Chang monastery where, during a visit Dhuta Szu Ma met him, recognized him as the right owner of the mountain and invited him to go there to establish a monastery. Kuei Shan was a man of the T’ang dynasty (618-906) and the Buddha Dharma was already at the end of its semblance period. For this reason, he was sorry he was not born earlier, because at the time the Buddha Dharma was difficult to understand and worldly men, whose believing minds were retrograding, refused to make efforts in their study of the doctrine, with the result that there was no hope for their attainment of the Buddha fruit. Over a thousand years have elapsed since the time of Kuei Shan and not only has the semblance period passed, but over 900 years of the present period of termination have also elapsed. (Therefore), worldly men of good roots are now very much fewer. This is why men believing in the Buddha Dharma are many and men who actually realize the truth are very few.
I now compare my own case with that of those who are now studying the Buddha Dharma and who have the advantage of all kinds of convenience. In the reigns of Hsien Feng (1851-61) and Tung Chih (1862-74), all monasteries were destroyed in the region south of the three rivers, where only the T’ien T’ung monastery remained intact. During the Tai Ping rebellion (1850-64)monks of the Chung Nan mountains came (to the South) to rebuild (these monasteries) and at the time, they were equipped each with only a gourd and a basket, and did not possess as many things as you have now. Later, the Buddha Dharma gradually flourished again, and monks began to carry their loads (with a pole over the shoulder). At present, they even carry leather suitcases but they do not pay much attention to the correct practice of the doctrine. Formerly, Ch’an monks wishing to call at various monasteries for instruction, had to journey on foot. Now, they can travel by train, motor car, steamer and airplane which relieve them of all (previous) hardships but intensify their enjoyment in indulgence and ease. At present, in spite of the increasing number of Buddhist institutions and Dharma masters, no one pays attention to the fundamental question, and from morning to evening everybody seeks only knowledge and interpretation with the least heed for (self-) cultivation and realization. At the same time, they do not know that (self-) cultivation and realization are the essentials of the doctrine.
(Ch’an master) Yung Chia said in his Song of Enlightenment:
Get at the root. Do not worry about twigs.
(Be) like pure crystal round the precious moon.
Alas! in this time of decay and in this evil world
Living beings of ill fortune are hard to discipline.
The holy period’s long passed and perverted views are deep.
With Demon strong and Dharma weak, hatred and harm prevail.
When they hear the Tathagata’s Instantaneous Dharma door,
They hate not having smashed it into pieces.
While their minds so act their bodies will then suffer;
They cannot accuse or blame their fellow-men.
If you would avoid unintermittant karma,
Do not vilify the wheel of the Buddha’s Law.
In my youth I amassed much learning,
Sought sutras, sastras, and their commentaries
Endlessly discriminating between name and form.
As one vainly counting sandgrains in the ocean
I was severely reprimanded by the Buddha,
Who asked what gain derived from counting others’ gems.
Yung Chia called on the Sixth Patriarch for instruction and was completely enlightened. The Patriarch called him the “Overnight Enlightened One”. For this reason, the ancients said: “The search for truth in sutras and sastras is like entering the sea to count its sand-grains.”
The Ch’an Sect’s device is likened to the precious Vajra king sword which cuts all things touching it and destroys all that runs up against its (sharp) point. It is the highest Dharma door (through which) to attain Buddhahood at a stroke. (To give you an example, I will tell you the story of) Ch’an master Shen Tsan who traveled on foot when he was young and who became enlightened after his stay with ancestor Pai Chang. After his enlightenment, he returned to his former master and the latter asked him: “After you left me, what (new) acquisition did you make at other places?” Shen Tsan replied: “I made no acquisition.” He was then ordered to serve his (former) master.
One day, as his (former) master took a bath and ordered him to scrub his dirty back, Shen Tsan patted him on the back and said: “A good Buddha hall but the Buddha is not saintly.” His master did not understand what he meant, turned his head and looked at the disciple who said again: “Although the Buddha is not saintly, he sends out illuminating rays.”
Another day, as his master was reading a sutra under the window, a bee knocked against the window paper trying to get out (of the room). Shen Tsan saw the struggling bee and said: “The universe is so vast and you do not want to get out. If you want to pierce old paper, you will get away in the (non-existent) year of the donkey !” After saying this, he sang the following poem:
“It refuses to get out through the empty door
And knocks against the window stupidly.
To pierce old paper will take a hundred years,
Oh when will it succeed in getting out?”
Thinking that Shen Tsan was insulting him, the (old) master put his sutra aside and asked him: “You went away for so long: whom did you meet, what did you learn and what makes you so talkative now?” Shen Tsan replied: “After I left you, I joined the Pai Chang community where master Pai Chang gave me an indication as to how to halt (thinking and discriminating). As you are now old, I have returned to pay the debt of gratitude I owe you.” Thereupon, the master informed the assembly (of the incident), ordered a vegetarian banquet (in honor of Shen Tsan) and invited him to expound the Dharma. The latter ascended to the seat and expounded the Pai Chang doctrine, saying:
Spiritual light shines on in solitude
Disentangling the sense organs from sense data.
Experience of true eternity
Depends not just on books.
Mind-nature being taintless
Fundamentally is perfect.
Freedom from falsehood-producing causes
Is the same as absolute Buddhahood.
After hearing this, his master became awakened to the truth and said: “I never expected that in my old age I would hear about the supreme pattern.” Then he handed over the management of the monastery to Shen Tsan and respectfully invited him to become his own master.
You see how free and easy this all is! We sat in this Ch’an meeting for over ten days and yet why did we not experience the truth? This is became we were not seriously determined in our training, or we took it for child’s play, or we thought it required sitting quiet in meditation in a Ch’an hall. None of this is correct and men who really apply their minds to this training, do not discriminate between the mutable and immutable, or against any kind of (daily) activity. They can do it while in the street, at the noisy market place, or anywhere (they may happen to be).
Formerly, there was a butcher monk who called on learned masters for instruction. One day, he arrived at a market place and passed a butcher’s shop where every buyer insisted on having “pure meat”. Suddenly, the butcher got angry and, putting down his chopper, asked them: “Which piece of meat is not pure?” Upon hearing this, the butcher monk was instantaneously enightened.
This shows that the ancients did not require to sit in meditation in a Ch’an hall, when they underwent their training. Today,not one of you speaks about awakening. Is this not a waste of time? I now (respectfully) request the (Venerable) Master Ying Tzu and the other masters to hold the examination.
Master Hsu Yun’s saying at the closing of the (two) Ch’an weeks.
After tea and cakes had been served, all the assembly stood up when the Venerable Master Hsu Yun, in formal robe (with large sleeves) entered the hall again and sat in front of the (jade) Buddha. With a strip of bamboo, he drew a circle in the air, saying:
Convocation and meditation!
Opening and closing!
When will all this come to an end?
When (productive) causes halt abruptly.
External objects will vanish.
When mind is still, essence and function (of themselves) return to normal. Fundamentally there is no day nor night but only complete brightness.
Where’s the dividing line ‘twixt South and North, ‘twixt East and West?
Without hindrance things are seen to be the product of conditioning causes.
While birds sing and flowers smile, the moon reaches the stream!
Now, what shall I say to close the meeting?
“When the board is struck, the bowl springs up!
Let us scrutinize the Prajnaparamita!”
Now let us close the meeting.