Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mar. 26 – Apr. 1

We need to do a practice that has no apparent rewards in it: the experiencing of our bodily sensations, our hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting. . . . Still, if we persist, at some point there is a shift, and for a second there isn’t myself and the world, but just — there are no words for it, because it is nondual. It is open, spacious, creative, compassionate, and, from the usual point of view, boring.”

– Joko Beck

This Week’s Koan

Gateless Gate, #18 and Blue Cliff Record #12: Donghshan Shouchu’s ‘Masagin’

A monk asked Dongshan Shouchu, “What is Buddha?”

Dongshan said, “Three pounds of flax [‘Masagin’ in Japanese].”

Comment:

We’re staying on this koan for another week.

Dongshan Shouchu (“Tozan Shusho” in Japanese), b. 911
14th Generation
Lineage: Shitou > Tianhuang > Longtan > Deshan > Xuefeng > Yunmen > Dongshan Shouchu
Dharma Siblings: Baling, Xianglin, Fengxian, Deshan Yuanming
Appears also in: Gateless Gate #15

Thirty-five koans ago, we were looking at a similarly-structured koan: Gateless Gate #21:

A monk asked Yunmen, “What is Buddha?”
Yunmen said, “Dried shitstick [‘Kanshiketsu’ in Japanese].”

Now we are come to Gateless Gate #18, wherein Yunmen’s disciple, Dongshan Shouchu, is asked the same question: “What is Buddha?” Is the disciple’s answer the same as his teacher’s? Or completely different? Wumen included both Yunmen’s “Kanshiketsu” and Dongshan’s “Masagin” in his Gateless Gate, while Xuedou included only Dongshan’s “Masagin” in his Blue Cliff Record. Is “Masagin” more profound? Did Xuedou regard “dried shitstick” as shock-value-merely-for-shock-value’s-sake?

Thirty-seven koans ago, we heard the story of how Dongshan Shouchu, when studying with his teacher, Yunmen, was awakened. Gateless Gate #15:

Dongshan came to see Yunmen. Yunmen asked him, “Where were you most recently?”
Dongshan said, “At Chatu.”
Yunmen said, “Where were you during the summer?”
Dongshan said, “At Baozu Monastery in Hunan.”
Yunmen said, “When did you leave there?”
Dongshan said, “August 25th.”
Yunmen said, “I spare you 60 blows.”
Next day, Dongshan came again and said, “Yesterday you said you spared me 60 blows. I don’t know where I was at fault.”
Yunmen said, “You rice bag! Do you go about in such a way, now west of the river, now south of the lake!”
With this, Dongshan had great satori.

This week, we see that the “rice bag” has turned Yunmen’s “kanshiketsu” into “masagin” — turned the dried shitstick into three pounds of flax. What goes around comes around!

Wumen’s Verse:

Thrusting forth “three pounds of flax!”
The words are intimate, mind is more so;
if you argue right and wrong,
you are a person of right and wrong.

This Week’s Reading

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, “Listening to the Body,” p. 181.

Mar. 12 – 25 (Two weeks)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Our regular Friday evening sit is cancelled for both Friday March 16 and Friday March 23. The Friday sit will resume in Friday March 30. Meredith will be away at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s retreat at Camp Montgomery on March 16, and away in Jacksonville for the Florida UU District Assembly on March 23. Our Friday sit will resume on March 30.

The experiential level is not some strange, exotic thing. It may be a tingling of the skin or a contraction in the chest or a tight face — the experiential level is quite basic and never far away. It’s what we are right now. The experiential level is nothing special, the the longer we sit, the more basic we know it to be.”

– Joko Beck

This Week’s Koan

Gateless Gate, #18 and Blue Cliff Record #12: Donghshan Shouchu’s ‘Masagin’

A monk asked Dongshan Shouchu, “What is Buddha?”

Dongshan said, “Three pounds of flax [‘Masagin’ in Japanese].”

Comment:

Dongshan Shouchu (“Tozan Shusho” in Japanese), b. 911
14th Generation
Lineage: Shitou > Tianhuang > Longtan > Deshan > Xuefeng > Yunmen > Dongshan Shouchu
Dharma Siblings: Baling, Xianglin, Fengxian, Deshan Yuanming
Appears also in: Gateless Gate #15

Thirty-five koans ago, we were looking at a similarly-structured koan: Gateless Gate #21:

A monk asked Yunmen, “What is Buddha?”
Yunmen said, “Dried shitstick [‘Kanshiketsu’ in Japanese].”

Now we are come to Gateless Gate #18, wherein Yunmen’s disciple, Dongshan Shouchu, is asked the same question: “What is Buddha?” Is the disciple’s answer the same as his teacher’s? Or completely different? Wumen included both Yunmen’s “Kanshiketsu” and Dongshan’s “Masagin” in his Gateless Gate, while Xuedou included only Dongshan’s “Masagin” in his Blue Cliff Record. Is “Masagin” more profound? Did Xuedou regard “dried shitstick” as shock-value-merely-for-shock-value’s-sake?

Thirty-seven koans ago, we heard the story of how Dongshan Shouchu, when studying with his teacher, Yunmen, was awakened. Gateless Gate #15:

Dongshan came to see Yunmen. Yunmen asked him, “Where were you most recently?”
Dongshan said, “At Chatu.”
Yunmen said, “Where were you during the summer?”
Dongshan said, “At Baozu Monastery in Hunan.”
Yunmen said, “When did you leave there?”
Dongshan said, “August 25th.”
Yunmen said, “I spare you 60 blows.”
Next day, Dongshan came again and said, “Yesterday you said you spared me 60 blows. I don’t know where I was at fault.”
Yunmen said, “You rice bag! Do you go about in such a way, now west of the river, now south of the lake!”
With this, Dongshan had great satori.

This week, we see that the “rice bag” has turned Yunmen’s “kanshiketsu” into “masagin” — turned the dried shitstick into three pounds of flax. What goes around comes around!

Wumen’s Verse:

Thrusting forth “three pounds of flax!”
The words are intimate, mind is more so;
if you argue right and wrong,
you are a person of right and wrong.

This Week’s Reading

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, “False Generalization,” p. 173.

Mar. 5 – 11

A student said to Master Ichu, “Please write for me something of great wisdom.” Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.” The student said, “Is that all?” The master wrote, “Attention. Attention.” The student became irritable. “That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.” In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, “Attention. Attention. Attention.” In frustration, the student demanded, “What does this word ‘attention’ mean?” Master Ichu replied, “Attention means attention.”

– Old Zen Story

This Week’s Koan

Book of Serenity, #46: Deshan’s “Study Accomplished”

Great Master Deshan Yuanming instructed his assembly and said, “If you have exhausted to the end, you will realize right away that all buddhas in the three worlds have stuck their mouths to the wall [i.e., they are unable to open their mouths]. Yet there is still one person who is giving a great laugh. If you can recognize that person, you have accomplished your study.”

Comment:

Deshan Yuanming (“Tokusan Emmyo” in Japanese), b. 909
14th Generation
Lineage: Shitou > Tianhuang > Longtan > Deshan > Xuefeng > Yunmen > Deshan Yuanming
Dharma Siblings: Baling, Xianglin, Dongshan Shouchu
Appears also in: No other koans in Gateless Gate, Blue Cliff Record, or Book of Serenity

On the radio a couple days ago I heard an interview with Teller (of Penn and Teller). Teller said that when people laugh, for an instant the critical, judging mind is turned off. So if a certain magician’s trick is likely to arouse a skepticism from an audience, then do or say something to make them laugh immediately afterward.

Words, words, words inherently tend to arouse our critical, evaluative mind. That’s OK. We need that mind — it’s got important work to do. Yet we also want to be in touch with the beauty of nonjudgmental awareness. That awareness is beyond all words — including even the Buddha’s words. ¬†At the end of our “study,” not even the Buddha can have anything to say anymore. There is only the nonlinguistic awareness — which, for example, laughter represents.

Verse by Roberta Werdinger:

Over a spangled shoulder the sambista crooks her mouth:
Deshan! no flowers on this wall.
At the end of the line, a bright response twitters above rustling forms, dips down for a drink.
The sea is the street: the whole city pours through.
A thousand scampering feet, fingers pointing to just one moon.
When a foot meets earth with no hesitation, eons of toil are wiped away.
Only brocade? More fish to hook? Deshan!
Yemaya’s watery hands nagged the fat pink one flapping on your face.

This Week’s Reading

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, “Attention Means Attention,” p. 168.