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All the Ancestors Are Like This

· Dharma Discourses, Open Access · ,

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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