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Friday, 13 July 2018

411 – Enlightenment

                A certain young monk, after many years of Zen practice, still had not attained enlightenment. So he approached his master and asked permission to leave the monastery in order to take up the life of a hermit. The master gave him permission, and the student set off. He intended to build a hermitage in the woods on top of a particular mountain. On his way, he came upon an old monk carefully making his way down the mountain path. The old monk carried a staff in one hand and held onto a bundle thrown over his shoulder in the other.
                The younger man greeted the elder courteously, and the old monk inquired where the student was going.
                “I am going to build a hermitage and there practice meditation. I intend to achieve enlightenment or to die in the attempt,” the student said. Then he added, “Do you know anything about enlightenment?”
                By way of answer, the old monk suddenly let go of his bundle and staff which fell to the ground with a soft thud. At that moment, the young man’s mind was opened.
                “Is it that simple?” the student exclaimed in wonder. “Just let go – don’t grasp. And then?”
                The old monk picked up his staff and bundle with a laugh, then continued down the path.

Friday, 29 June 2018

410 – I Won’t Say

                Daowu Yuanjie and his disciple, Jianyuan Zhongxing, went to visit a family who were mourning the death of one its members.  The coffin was still at the house, and Jianyuan took the opportunity to ask his master a question.  Laying his hand on the coffin he asked, “Is he alive or dead?”
                “I won’t say alive,” Daowu told him.  “I won’t say dead.”
                “Why not?”
                “I won’t say.”
                After the visit, as they were returning to the monastery, Jianyuan was very disturbed and demanded, “Tell me, alive or dead.  If not, I’ll strike you down!”
                “Strike me or not, I still won’t tell you.”
                Jianyuan was unable to restrain himself, and he struck his master.  Daowu did not strike back, but it was such a breach of etiquette that he told his student, “If others learn what you’ve done, it may cause you trouble.  So it would better if you leave our monastery for a while.”
                Jianyuan wandered from place to place until he learned that his former master had died.  Then he returned to the monastery where Shishuang Chuyuan was now teaching.  Jianyuan explained why he had been absent from the monastery for so long and told the new master about the question to which Daowu had merely said: “I won’t say alive; I won’t say dead.”
                “Can you answer my question?” he asked Shishuang.
                “I won’t say alive; I won’t say dead,” Shishuang replied.
                “But why not?” Jianyuan asked.
                “I won’t say.”
                And with those words, Jianyuan finally came to awakening.

Friday, 15 June 2018

409 – From Zhuangzi

                There was a hunchback named Su. His jaws touched his navel. His shoulders were higher than his head. His neck bone stuck out toward the sky. His viscera were turned upside down. His buttocks were on the same level with his ribs. By tailoring, or washing, he was able to earn his living. By sifting rice from husks he could make enough to support a family of ten. When orders came down for a conscription, the hunchback walked about unconcerned among the crowd. And similarly, in government conscription for public works, his deformity saved him from being called. On the other hand, when it came to government donations of grain for the disabled, the hunchback received as much as three chung, and of firewood, ten faggots. And if physical deformity was thus enough to preserve his body until the end of his days, how much more should moral and mental deformity avail!

--Lin Yutang’s rendition