When Dharma fills Body and Mind 

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When Dharma Fills Body and Mind
Tenshin Reb Anderson
No Abode, July 14, 2012 MORNING

AI Summary: 



Transcribed by Karen Mueller

Zen’s Chinese Teachers: the Masters and Teaching by Andy Ferguson. Wisdom Publication 2011, pp 191-193, “Xiangyan Zhixian” (ZTC).
There is also story quoted about Cezanne but I don’t know the reference.


The last time I was here we talked about a relationship between a teacher and a student. It’s a relationship that, according to the story, occurred in China more than a thousand years ago. It’s a story about a monk whose name was Xiangyan. The Japanese way of saying his name is Kyogen. He studied with a very important teacher whose name was Baizhang. Baizhang died before this monk understood the teaching that the teacher was offering. This monk was a brilliant intellect. He was a pattern of brilliant intelligence and he studied the teachings very diligently but didn’t really understand them. Even though he understood them brilliantly, it wasn’t really correct understanding. And his teacher died so then he continued to study with one of his teacher’s successors who did understand. At least that’s how the story goes. And that teacher’s name was Guishan. So now Guishan was Xiangyan’s teacher. Can you say Xiangyan? (Xiangyan) Xiangyan. (Xiangyan) And, Guishan had another student who did understand and his name was Yangshan. (Yangshan) Yangshan. (Yangshan). Yeah. But I tell you beforehand, Xiangyan will eventually understand, just like we will. One day Guishan said to his wonderful student Xiangyan, “I don’t want to hear any more from you about anything you’ve heard before. I don’t want to hear about the things you’ve been studying. You have to say something from before your self was born. From before the mind discriminated objects.” And Xiangyan mumbled something and the teacher said, “No”. And he want away and he kept studying the thing’s he studied before and came back to the teacher and tried to say something from before his self was born and the teacher say, “No”. And he,.. I would say, my story is that he really felt that it was given to him by the teacher to say something from a different place than he usually spoke. To say something from before his mind conjured up appearances. He really wanted to! He respected his teacher and he felt compelled to respond. But the teacher didn’t accept any of his responses as satisfying the assignment. And he said, “Would you please explain to me how to do this?” And the teacher said, “Well it really wouldn’t do you any good. I would just be telling you about my work. And also you would be really disappointed in me later if I did. “ I told this story last week, right? I am telling it again now because I want to tell more stories like this one, but this one kind of sets the stage for the other ones. I may never get to the other ones. I am just telling the same story again. But the people who heard it last time, is it all right if I tell it again? Hmm? (Yes). So now Xiangyan has been given the assignment. The teacher won’t explain to him how to do it and he’s… I imagine.. The story says he was kind of, it doesn’t say heartbroken, but it says he was tearful and felt strongly that he lacked something in understanding. He studied the teaching for a long time. He studied with a great teacher. He accepted that somehow he really, he really was lacking in wisdom. And he really felt strongly compelled to realize wisdom. And I don’t know, it just came up to him that he should leave his teacher for a while and go live a very simple life away from all his books. I think the story says he either gave away or burned all his books. He decided to go and take care of a monument to one of the great teachers, a teacher named National Teacher Huizhong, National Teacher Zhong. There was a monument to him and actually there’s a story about the Emperor.. National Teacher means teacher of the Emperor of China. So he was the teacher of the Emperor. When he was old, the Emperor asked him actually about what kind of a monument that he should build for him. I’ll tell you that story some other time. The name of that story is “The National Teacher’s Monument.” So here’s this great teacher. There’s a monument. This monk gets the idea, “I’m going to go take care of the monument.” You know like keep it clean and tidy, cut the weeds away from it and just basically.. he built a little hut near the monument and took care of the monument.

Now this is my story. It doesn’t say it in the traditional records. The next part is not recorded. This is my story for you. My story is the teacher gave him a teaching and he felt required, he felt compelled to respond to this teaching. To respond to this teaching. He felt responsible to take care of this teaching. And he felt that a good place to take care of it would be living a simple life and taking care of the monument of another great teacher. So I’m saying I feel that he was going to that place to offer himself. To what? To the enlightenment, to the wisdom that he had not yet realized. I feel that his going there and taking care of this monument was a kind of prayer. It was a request to receive guidance to this place and this time before his self was born. But his teacher was not going to explain it to him. He wasn’t going to get any explanations from the monument. He wasn’t going to get an explanation from the earth that he was taking care of and the grasses. He wasn’t going to get explanation. But he was asking. He was requesting more teachings. His human teacher says, “I can’t explain it to you. That wouldn’t do you any good.” Now again, I interpret the teacher saying that if the teacher tried to explain he would just see that more from the same place of the mind which makes the teacher’s teaching “out there”. When you look at the ground, maybe you don’t think the teaching is going to be ‘out there’ in the ground. So I picture him as living there and basically his presence there was a kind of prayer, a prayer for guidance, a prayer for teaching to come and work with him. I don’t know how long he was living there. One day when he was… One story says, when he was sweeping the ground; another story says he was scything grass. Anyway, somehow his action dislodged a stone, a pebble. It flew through the air and it hit bamboo. When it hit bamboo, the bamboo made a sound and when he heard the sound, he realized the place before his self was born. He understood that everything he had been seeing before that was basically just appearances. He understood that teaching that all he knew was conscious construction. He had heard this teaching and now he understood it. Understanding it, he was ready to say something. And so he did. And actually the first thing he said.. The first thing he did was not saying something, was to take a bath and then he did prostrations in the direction of his teacher and then he said, “I am so grateful to you that you did not explain to me. Otherwise, I would not be able to have this realization now” And then he wrote a poem which goes:

“One strike and all knowledge is forgotten.
No more dream of practice “pretense of practice”
[No more believing the dream of practice.]
Transformed to uphold the ancient path,
Not sunk into idle devices.

Far and wide, not a trace is left.
The Great Purpose lies beyond sound and color. “sound and form”.
In every direction, the Realized Way.
Beyond all speech, the ultimate principle”.

And there was another monk who was amenable to serving as a post-person and carried this poem to his teacher. And when the teacher read it, he read it in the presence of his other disciple, Yongshan. And when he read it, the teacher said, “Ah, Xiangyan has realized the teaching.” And Yongshan, his older Dharma brother, said, “Maybe. I’ll check him out the next time I see him.” Did I tell you this story last week? Huh? I didn’t read the poem though, did I? I did read the poem? (A while ago you read it.) Oh, yeah. Right. And so then later, Yongshan did run into his younger brother and said, “I came to check you out. The teacher thinks you understood. I’m not so sure. Please demonstrate. Speaking from the space before yourself was born.” So he said the poem again.
And Yongshan said, “That could have come from what you learned before. Tell me something new.” And he said, .. (so he’s a monk, a poor monk, right? He’s practicing poverty, living in a simple way taking care of a monument). So he says:

“Last year’s poverty was not real poverty.
This year’s poverty is genuine poverty.
Last year, there was still a place to plant my hoe.
This year there is not a place, nor a hoe to plant.”

“Last year’s poverty was not real poverty.
This year’s poverty is finally genuine poverty.
In last year’s poverty there was still ground where I could plant my hoe.
In this year’s poverty, not even the hoe remains.

And then Yongshan said, “Well that is good. That shows you understand the Buddha’s teaching. But you still don’t know what the teaching of the Ancestor’s is.”And then he said, “I got a life and it’s working. It’s seen in the twinkling of an eye. If you don’t see it, shut up!”

I have a function.
It’s seen in the twinkling of an eye.
If others can”t see it,
They still can’t call me a novice.

And Yongshan said, “Ok, you’re my brother.” You’re my sister. So I, somebody asked me to name the talk last week and the name I gave with some consultation was: “Chick and Hen: Inquiring and Responding”? That was it, in case you don’t remember. I said that because later Xiangyan wrote a poem which I also mentioned last week.

The poem goes:

“Chick pecks from inside. Hen pecks from outside.
(The shell, ok? Chick is in the shell pecking from the inside. The hen pecks from the outside.)
The chick breaks through, breaks free of the shell.
When (or even, “Then”) hen and chick are both forgotten.
The Great Function has not gone astray.
Singing the same song,
The mystical voice goes on solo.”

The chick pecks from within, the hen from without.
The chick breaks free through the shell.
When hen and chick are both gone,
The function has not gone astray.
Singing the same song,
The mystical voice goes on alone.

That’s his poem. The image here is of the student who is living within the normal mind of sentient beings which is conjuring appearances and the appearances completely enclose the sentient beings life. Everything they know is the appearance of their life. They actually are the experience of their life. Everybody is the experience of their life but everybody lives in a conscious construction of their life, which is appearances. And, the student of the Dharma is living in this appearance of the Dharma, is reading the Sutras, reading the teachings, which are appearances of the teachings. That’s.. we’re in the shell. But when we read the Sutras, we’re pecking a little bit on the conscious construction. We’re pecking on the experience. The energy we bring to looking at the appearance of the teaching on this page, the energy we bring to listening to words that we’re hearing of the teaching, it pecks on the shell. It pecks on the shell. Yangshan (Xiangyan?) pecked on the shell and he pecked on the shell and his teacher died. Then he got a successor teacher and he pecked on the shell and pecked on the shell and finally the teacher pecked back pretty hard. He pecked enough. Xiangyan pecked enough so the teacher was ready to peck back pretty hard and said, “Stop. I don’t want to hear any more of those kinds of pecks that you used to give me. You’re a smart boy. I don’t want to hear any more about that. I want you to do a peck you never did before. I want you to peck from a place before you were born.” And he pecked back but kind of wimpily. And the teacher pecked back kind of hard. “No”. “Peck” “No”. “Peck”. “No” “Peck”. “No.” And then, “Please explain”. “No”. “I’m going to go now and practice at the National Teacher’s monument.” “Ok”. So then the shell goes and the shell keeps pecking, keeps praying for help. “Please, explain..show me this. What is this place? Peck. Peck. Peck Peck. Peck. Peck” And the hens are pecking back. “Keep it up kid.” “Keep it up.” “Don’t give up”. And finally the student is strong enough to really face this is all a shell and understand this is just a shell. And when you understand it’s all a shell, without really destroying the shell, you break free of it. And then there’s no teacher or student; there’s no hen or chick. And they are singing the same song. Now you are a young hen. You can then hear now what it sounds like, from freedom, to hear the cries of people in the shell. You hear the pecks and you peck back. So he did. I told the story about him when he was a teacher. He not only wrote this poem about the chick and the hen describing this relationship between sentient beings and Buddhas, or between sentient beings who have not yet entered the truth and those sentient beings who have entered the truth and their relationship. That nice image of the chick and the hen, he gave that poem. He also gave the image of the person who’s hanging by her teeth from a branch of a tree that’s stuck in a thousand foot cliff. He told that story. That story is called… it’s actually often called, well anyway, I think it’s often called “Xiangyan is Up In A Tree”. So I said last time I could tell more stories about chickens and eggs, I mean chickens and eggs but also hens and chicks. So I have some more stories about that situation. When we’re in the shell we practice the bodhisattva practices. We practice generosity. Well actually we receive teachings and because we receive teachings, we receive teachings about training methods. We feel we want to learn the Buddha Dharma in order to realize peace and happiness and then we hear about teachings to practice and we practice them and we practice them and then when they lead to the realization of the practice of wisdom, we’re free of the shell and then we continue the same practices. So there’s a number of stories, similar stories of wonderful chicks and hens. I just want to say a little bit more about this situation of the chick and the hen. All sentient beings just have a consciousness which is a shell. Even those who have broken free of the shell, all they have is a consciousness which is a shell too, but they are free of it. So the great Bodhisattvas are sentient beings and they also just have a shell-consciousness, a karmic consciousness. So you could say, in terms of this conversation, there are two kinds of bodhisattvas: those who have not yet entered the reality of this teaching and those who have. Not all sentient beings are bodhisattvas. But all sentient beings have this kind of cognitive enclosure. Some of the sentient beings who live in the cognitive enclosure, they feel compelled to practice the Dharma in order to realize Buddhahood for the welfare of all beings. Did you get that? Some sentient beings, who are living in this shell (and all sentient beings are living in this shell), they receive, it is presented to them the sense, the pressing condition, they feel a pressing condition to realize authentic awakening in order to benefit all beings. Some sentient beings who are living in this shell have that happen to them. That’s given to them. And if they see that pressing situation and understand it as a responsibility and then work on that responsibility, they become bodhisattvas. I often mention, ..I mentioned the other night (Yoga Room) someone said to me, “When you feel that compelling sense of wanting to live for the welfare of all beings, are you a bodhisattva?” And I said, “No you become a bodhisattva by taking care of that sense.” You become one by practicing and taking care of it. Taking care of it by practice, you become a bodhisattva. Now, not all bodhisattvas… Excuse me. Some strict definitions of bodhisattvas are, you’re not really a bodhisattva until not only you take care of this, but until actually you become free of the cognitive enclosure. The Diamond Sutra says that when you are in this enclosure and you wish to live,…and you vow to live for the welfare of all beings, to lead all beings to nirvana, complete nirvana. You vow to take them all there, you also think, but ‘”yet when I lead all beings to nirvana, no one will be led to nirvana.” So that Sutra says that bodhisattvas have this vow but they do not actually think that they are leading somebody to this nirvana. They don’t go with that because they understand that there’s no actual nirvana that you can get or beings that you can take there. And yet they vow to take the beings to nirvana. That’s saying that bodhisattvas are those who have become free of the shell. But even though they have become free of shell by that definition, they are totally devoted to beings still in the shell. So the shell is not destroyed. They are in the same place. It’s just that they are free. Ok. Now back to the situation of somebody who is in the shell and who has been pecking long enough to get instructions which they realize they don’t know how to do, like Xiangyan. He’s been practicing long enough so he can get this instruction. He doesn’t understand it but he doesn’t give up. Usually when someone first asks for instructions, they do not get instructions which they have no idea how to practice because most people just wander off and go to some other Dharma center where someone will give them teachings which they do understand. So Xiangyan had been given teachings which he thought he did understand for a long time and he became strong enough so he was given an instruction which he realized he had no idea about how to practice it. (I gotta say this.) There’s a text called the Genjo Koan and it says, “When Dharma does not fill your body and mind, you think it is sufficient”. When you first start practicing you hear some Dharma and you think “Good, this is great! This stuff agrees with me. That is just what I think, except better! It’s like my understanding is now a little bit sharper and crisper. I realize even more beautifully how wise I am. I’m going to study more of this Dharma”. Or like Katagiri Roshi used to say, “Graduate students often think (You know graduate students in physics or something) they often think , ‘I really understand physics’, but the Nobel Prize physicists realize they don’t know… I shouldn’t say they don’t know anything but they really don’t yet understand. When the Dharma does not fill your body and mind, at the beginning of your practice, you think, “Well I understand a little bit” And then a little bit later you think, “I understand pretty well”. “But when the Dharma does fill your body and mind, you realize something is missing.” There’s different ways of understanding that but one way is you realize you don’t understand the Dharma. Something’s missing and you don’t understand it. So Xiangyan had been filled enough with the Dharma so the teacher could give him a teaching where he felt like something is missing and there is nothing I can do about it but pray for help. So I am suggesting to you, which I have suggested before which is that before we even know we’re asking for teaching, we are asking for teaching. And before we even know we’re asking for teaching (and we are asking for teaching) the teaching is responding to our request and we don’t know that the response is coming. We don’t know that we are asking and we’re being responded to. Later, it could go either way. Later we think, “I am asking!” Actually, yeah.. I think maybe when Xiangyan was first studying with the great teacher Baizhang, he said, “I am asking the teacher and the teacher is answering me. I am asking the teacher and the teacher is answering me”. So it could have gone that way. “But the teacher is telling me that I don’t understand. Now I am asking Guishan and Guishan is answering me. I am asking Guishan and Guishan is saying to me, ‘Don’t talk to me like that anymore. Tell me a new way’. And I tell him and he answers me by saying, ‘You don’t get it’. I am asking and he is answering but I don’t get it. I don’t get it”. But you can see in that story, he does know he’s asking and he does know the teacher is responding. Then he went away from Guishan and I think he kept asking. And I don’t know if he thought he was getting a response. But I think he was asking and not getting a response and asking and not getting a response. And then he asked, and he got a response. But this time the response was from this new place that he had been trying to realize. Have you heard of the painter Cezanne? Anybody not heard of the painter Cezanne? He’s a painter that lived in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I think he died in 1906. He’s one of these people who felt impelled to do a certain kind of work in this world. When he was a young boy he felt impelled to be a painter. He felt like the world was asking him to speak for it or to make an expression for it in making paintings. He struggled for a long time making paintings. A month before he died, he said, “I was in such a state of mental agitation and such great confusion, that for a time I feared my weak reason would not survive. Now it seems I am better and I see more clearly the direction my studies are taking.” This is Cezanne. There is maybe no greater painter in history. A month before he dies, he says he sees more clearly the direction his studies are taking. What is he studying? He is studying the appearance of the world. “Will I arrive at the goal so intensely sought and so long promised. I am working from nature and it seems to me, I am making slow progress”. This is what he said a month before he died. (Need Cezanne-story reference?) This is what it is like. This is a bad scene, right? “The Dharma fills you” so completely that you feel you are making slow progress. Except this guy, I think the Dharma filled him so completely that he never felt like he knew anything about painting. Ok. I think I’ve set the stage now and before I go on to the next set of chick and hen stories, I ask for any feedback or questions about this outrageous offering which has been presented to you. Yes? Q When listening to your teachings and hearing what you’re offering us and I’m thinking about two specific things that you said that were sticking points for me. One of them was.. At least this is how I heard that there was not teachings from the earth or from the grasses or that the person didn’t go to receive teaching from the earth or from the grasses. A. No. He did. That’s what his awakening was. His awakening was the bamboo and the stone are teaching. He heard it finally. He heard the Dharma. He had been sweeping all that time. Q. But what was that thing that you offered? A. I said that usually when we look at the earth, we don’t ask the earth to explain. Q. Oh. I guess.. A. And even if we ask the earth to explain, it doesn’t but it is giving us Dharma. But when we have a teacher, we ask the teacher to explain. And this teacher at a certain point when he was mature enough, the teacher said, “No more. I’ve done that enough. You’re a big monk now. And you would actually be sorry if I explained to you. You are big enough for this assignment, you are big enough for this assignment and I have no reason to explain it to you.” And so he went to a place where people weren’t going to be explaining things to him. The monument, the National Teacher’s monument was not going to speak Chinese to him and explain. But he could pray to the National Teacher and say, “Please teach me what Guishan is asking me to do.” Right? He’s going to have to hear it from a different place. Because the way the rock, the monument talks, the way the rock strikes bamboo, does not appear to be explaining the assignment. That’s what I meant. But finally it did! But it didn’t explain; it realized. He and the sound together realized this place before he was born. He became himself, finally. He stopped being fooled by the appearance of himself and realized the self before the appearance of the self. Appearances of self are born and die. Guishan said, “Before yourself was born.” That was the assignment. So the earth and the monument and the grasses, they are all teaching the Dharma and he wanted to hear it but he couldn’t. He wisely left the great teacher to go someplace where nobody.., where he wouldn’t ask anybody to explain the assignment. But he was asking someone to teach him how to find this place without explaining. And the grasses, the way they move in the wind and the earth, how it responds to a touch, all these things are helping us open to how superficial our understanding is and not try to make it anything more than that. The earth doesn’t say, “Make me deeper.” Next question? Q. Sometimes when I hear the traditional teachings presented, based on a little bit, for instance it seems to me, I have this belief that there are bodhisattvas that do not know they are bodhisattvas and that they do amazing things for other people in the world and are committed in a different way than what I understand to be the traditional way. A. Oh really? Who? Q. Martin Luther King Jr for instance. A. Seems like he,.. it’ seems like they had the vow to realize understanding for the welfare of all being. It seems like they knew it. Don’t you think they knew that? Don’t you think they knew they had that aspiration? Q. I think they knew that in a different way than saying, “I vow to awaken for the benefit of all beings.” Well, how do you think they said it? Tell me how you think they saw that. I think they had this.. You know one of our friends wrote a book called Bodhisattva Archetypes. And Gandhi and Martin Luther King are in the book. That person thinks that they are representing the bodhisattva archetype. They are not card-carrying bodhisattva members of the Zen school or whatever. When I look at those lives I see them aspiring to the welfare of all beings. I see them praying for wisdom in order to see how to help beings. And I see in their story, their wisdom growing and their understanding of how to help beings growing. So I saw in Martin.. When the bodhisattva first wishes to live for the people, the people of India or the people of America, when the bodhisattva first wishes to live for their welfare, they are not instantly wise. First there is the wish. Does that make sense? And I see the wish in both of them. But I also see their wisdom growing. I see them being somewhat foolish at the beginning. Like Martin Luther King was contemplating using violent means to accomplish civil rights for a while. He was associating with some people who had weapons. He himself didn’t do any violence but he was starting to develop relationships with people who did think that they needed to use armed might. Did you know that? And right around that time, those little girls got bombed and he gave that up. He was converted.. He didn’t originally.. He wanted civil rights for his people, but he was not at the beginning convinced that non-violence was the way. He was converted to it by his vow. That’s my story of him. So I think he was, he did have bodhisattva vow. And I think he knew it and I think he was taking care of it all the time and praying for help to protect that vow. That ‘s my story of him. Q. Excuse me. I really appreciate you saying “This is my story” and I feel encouraged to practice in this way and that it’s ok to practice in this way because at the same time I do value religious diversity deeply and I do want to be able to meet other traditions in the context that they are in and not to try to relate my story on top of their story, in a Buddhist way. Do you know what I mean? So I really appreciate your explanation of it and it helps me to better listen to you and to other people. A. Yeah. Q. So Martin Luther King and Thich Nath Hahn met before he died. They became friends and I heard this talk on NPR. Martin Luther King. Thich Nath Hahn taught him some very advanced teachings which Martin Luther King embraced. He just took it and it affected his last acts. So that’s a little known story. A. Yeah. And again our nice ancestor Suzuki Roshi said, “Buddhism is not one of those religions like Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism and Buddhism.” Buddhism is when a religion goes beyond itself. Buddhism is when Christianity penetrates the shell of Christianity and Islam is not fooled by Islam and Buddhism is not fooled by Buddhism. So this story is about a monk who was living in a story of Buddhism, the shell of Buddhism that was created by the mind. And the same could be applied to any religion. That if a person practices with the shell of what they think their religion is about and become free of it, that’s what all the religions are about. Really. I think. I hope. I think that’s what all beings are about. Any other responses at this time? A. Just to clarify something that you said and perhaps my own interpretation of it.. So we work and practice in this way using our own language to help us and encourage us along that path. But then maybe at a certain point later on, we’ve used up all those tricks within our own language and then we go out in the world and listen to other types of cultures or other species that we can’t actually speak to in the same language. Or the wall that we look at. We look at it and then it doesn’t speak back to us in the language that we’re accustomed to hearing. And from that point there is an ability to see beyond your own language into all religions together. Q. Yeah. That’s a good way to put it. We looked at a wall and we look at the wall and we watch how the wall is teaching us. The first way the wall is teaching us is we notice the wall is teaching us by us dreaming about how it’s teaching us. I spent many hours watching various shows going on on the wall, you know. The wall turns into all these faces, right? Because my mind doesn’t want to look at the wall so it decorates it with faces. Have you seen those faces on the wall? And on the floor too, all these faces jumping around, people dancing and you know. So then I realize the wall is not teaching me a story so I’ll put a story on the wall too. And I’ll call it a wall also. But if you keep looking at it, after while you realize well actually the wall is reminding me that.. yeah, the wall is reminding me of what my mind is. The wall is teaching me what my mind is. But not in the way that that guy is teaching me what my mind is. So I have heard this teaching that I’m really just… everything I’m looking at is conscious construction. Walls are nice that way. They show you that. They are quite helpful teachers. And the land is too. It’s saying, “This is just your mind”. You think it’s something other than your mind. You think the wall is not your mind. You think the earth is not your mind. Right? And the earth just sits there and says, “Ok you can keep on thinking that. I’ll support you to think I’m not your mind. “ And when you realize that the earth you are looking at is your mind, then you realize who you are and you realize who the earth is. Is that what you said? Q.Yeah. Exactly. A. So with that setup this afternoon I’ll tell stories about another lineage of hens and chicks, chicks and hens. I don’t know how many generations I can do of that lineage but that’s what I’ll do for the next talk. I’m making slow progress in my studies. Thank you very much for studying with me. Not the end.