DIFFICULTY FOR OLD PRACTICERS: INABILITY TO TAKE A STEP FORWARD AFTER REACHING THE TOP OP A HUNDRED-FOOT POLE
Where does difficulty lie for an old practicer? In his training, when his doubt has become genuinely real, his awareness and contemplation are still linked with the (realm) of birth and death, and lack of awareness and contemplation is (the cause of) his fall into (the realm of) non-existence. It is already difficult to reach these stages, but there are many who are unable to get beyond them, and are content to stand on the top of a hundred-foot pole without knowing how to take a step forward. Others who, after reaching these stages, are able to achieve in the stillness some wisdom which enables them to understand a few kung ans left behind by the ancients; they also lay down the doubt, thinking they have attained a thorough awakening, and compose poems and gathas, twinkle their eyes and raise their eyebrows, calling themselves enlightened; they do not know that they are servants of the demon.
There are also those who misunderstand the meaning of Bodhidharma’s (words:)
and the Sixth Patriarch’s (words:)
They think that sitting with crossed legs like withered logs in a grotto is the best Pattern. These people mistake an illusion-city for a place of precious things, and take a foreign land for their native village. The story of the old lady burning the hut serves to scold these (logs of) dead wood.
EASINESS FOR OLD PRACTICERS: CONTINUATION OF CLOSE AND UNINTERRUPTED CH’AN TRAINING
Where does easiness lie for old practicers? It lies only in the absence of self-satisfaction and the continuation of the close and uninterrupted (Ch’an) training , the closeness should be much closer, the continuance much more continuous and the subtleness much more subtle. When the ripe moment comes, the bottom of the barrel will drop off of itself; otherwise one will have to call on enlightened masters who will help one to pull out (the remaining) nail or stake (of obstruction).
High on a mountain peakOnly boundless space is seen.How to sit in meditation, no one knows.The solitary moon shines o’er the icy pool,But in the pool there is no moon;The moon is in the night-blue sky.This song is chanted now,(But) there’s no Ch’an in the song.
The first two lines show that that which is truly eternal is solitary and does not belong to anything else, and that it shines brightly over the world without encountering any obstruction. The following (third) line shows the wonderful body of Bhutatathata which worldly men do not know and which cannot be located (even) by all Buddhas of the three times; hence the three words: ‘no one knows’. The next three (fourth, fifth and sixth) lines show the old master’s expedient expounding of this state. The last two lines (seventh and eighth) give a special waffling to all of us, lest we mistake the finger for the moon, that is none of these words are Ch’an.
My talk is like a heap of things and is also (like what we call) the drag of creepers and an interfering interruption (because) wherever there are words and speeches, there is no real meaning. When the ancient masters received their students, either they used their staffs (to beat them) or they shouted (to wake them up) and there were not so many complications. However, the present cannot be compared with the past, and it is, therefore, imperative to point a finger at the moon. Dear friends, please look into all this; after all, who is pointing his finger and who is looking at the moon?’