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All the Ancestors Are Like This

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by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi

The True Dharma Eye, Case 101

Nanyue’s “Its Not Like Something”

Main Case

Zen master of Nanyue went to study with the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng. The Sixth Ancestor said: “Where are you from?” Nanyue said, “I came from National Teacher Huian.”

The Sixth Ancestor said, “What is it that has come like this?” Nanyue could not answer.

He attended on the master for eight years and worked on this question. One day he said to the Huineng, “Now I understand it. When I first came to study with you, you asked me, ‘What is it that has come like this?’ The Sixth Ancestor said, “How do you understand it?” Nanyue said, “To say it’s like something misses it.” Huineng said, “Does it depend upon practice and enlightenment?”

Nanyue said, “It’s not that there is no practice and enlightenment. It’s just that we should not be defiled by them.”

The Sixth Ancestor said, “Just this non-defilement is what buddhas have maintained and transmitted. You are like this. I am like this. All the ancestors in India were like this.”

Verse

Blue sky, bright sun

there is no distinguishing east from west.

Yet acting in accord with the imperative

still requires dispensing medicine when the sickness appears.

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Photo by Blue Eyes 94

Practice and Resilience

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by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi


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FROM THE RECORD OF MASTER YANGSHAN

Ho-shang Mi of Ching-chao sent a monastic to ask Yangshan: “Right in this very moment are you dependent on enlightenment?”

Yangshan said “There is no absence of enlightenment. Why fall into the secondary?”

Ho-shang Mi was a peer of Master Yangshan, a very important Chinese master in our lineage. Here he asks, right in this moment are you dependent upon enlightenment?

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Photo by Kevin Harber

What Do You Call it?

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by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi


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Book of Serenity Case 74

Fayan’s Non-Abiding

The Pointer

Plenty has myriad virtues; swept clear, there’s not a mote of dust.
Detached from all forms, identical to all things: taking a step atop a hundred foot pole,
the universe in all directions is one’s whole body—but tell me, where does it come from?

Main Case

A monk asked Fayan, “I hear that in the teachings there is a saying‚
‘From a non-abiding basis are established all things.’
What is the non-abiding basis?”
Fayan said, “Form arises before substantiation,
names arise from before naming.”

Verse

Without tracks, No news
The white clouds are rootless—What color is the pure breeze?
Spreading the canopy of the sky, mindless,
Holding the carriage of the earth, powerful;
Illumining the profound source of a thousand ages,
Making patterns for ten thousand forms.
Meetings for enlightenment in the atoms of all lands
in each place is Samantabhadra:
The door of the tower opens
everywhere is Maitreya.

 

The enlightened path is to practice and awaken to the Buddha mind that each and every one of us possesses. Though it is our very nature—it is never apart even for an instant—to directly realize this truth is both subtle and profound. To engage the teachings that point to self-nature is also a challenge. There are teachings that are challenging and so we need to engage them thoughtfully and carefully, and take time trying to understand what they are saying. This means that in the beginning we are using our rational mind to reflect on and understand conceptually what the dharma is pointing to—something that is itself, beyond all concepts and knowing.

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photo by Chizen Brown, MRO

With Nothing to Call My Own

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by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi

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Book of Serenity Case 14

Attendant Huo Passes Tea

The Pointer

Probing pole in hand, shadowing grass around him, sometimes he wraps a ball of silk in iron, sometimes he wraps a special stone with silk. To determine the soft by means of the hard is of course right; what about the matter of being weak when meeting strength?

Main Case

Attendant Huo asked Deshan, “Where have all the sages since antiquity gone?”
Deshan said, “What? How’s that?”
Huo said, “The order was for a ‘flying dragon’ horse but a ‘lame tortoise’ shows up.” Deshan let it rest.
The next day when Deshan came out of the bath, Huo passed him some tea.
Deshan patted Huo on the back. Huo said, “This old fellow has finally gotten a glimpse.” Again Deshan let the matter rest

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