Xiang Yan hears the sound of stones striking bamboo 

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Continuing the commitment to study and practice the great vehicle, I bring up again and again this ancient text, which is translated on the cover here as Summary of the Great Vehicle. So I just thought, well, the summary of great vehicle, a summary of it would be a deep understanding of ultimate truth. This text has, the summary of this text might be also what's called the understanding


of mind only, or the understanding of conscious construction only. That could be a summary of this text, that could also be a summary of the great vehicle of the Bodhisattva. A summary of the great vehicle could be an essential message about the mind. About mind, and that is that mind is something that's empty of any inherent existence, which imagines that there's things that have inherent existence.


So there's the teaching of ultimate truth, the teaching of the lack of inherent existence, there's the teaching that all phenomena lack independent existence. All phenomena are empty of independent existence. This summary of the Mahayana is saying that there is a mind, there is a mind which is empty of inherent existence, and it imagines inherent existence. So it's not just the teaching of emptiness, but the teaching that there is an empty mind that imagines that things aren't empty. There's a mind which thinks of something, constructs something, which is itself, and


imagines it's something other than itself. This text is saying that if we can understand how it is that the mind is just knowing itself, that it doesn't really know anything other than itself, but it constructs that there is something other than itself, and that the things other than itself actually exist on their own, and the mind itself exists on its own, the mind constructs like that. If we can understand this, we can become free of the mind. Or another way to put it is we can become free of the standpoint of the mind. The standpoint of the mind is that there's something that has a self, that there's something


that has an essence. That's the mind's standpoint, the mind does that. And living beings live in such minds. In this text, in the second chapter, there's a verse which says something like, when practitioners of meditation, also called yogins, when yogins and yoginis understand unity, its duality, and its multiplicity, they reach an understanding of conscious construction only, and thereby


become free of the standpoint of mind. When meditators understand unity, when they understand that what we're looking at is ourself, that the universe we're looking at converges on ourself, and ourself is the universe we're looking at, when we understand that there's a unity, and nothing but a mental construction, the universe we're aware of is nothing but conscious construction, it's nothing but our cognition, when we understand that, and also understand that it has a duality in it, that this unity has a duality, and also understand that this unity has multiplicity, when we


understand all that, we enter into this teaching of mind only, and we become free of mind. As I was, as I was contemplating this verse, and other teachings in this text about mind only, I remembered this story about a person who had this famous experience of hearing the sound of pebbles, or stones, striking bamboo. There's a story about a Chinese monk who heard


the sound of pebbles striking bamboo, and he understood this teaching of conscious construction only, and he became free of the problem of consciousness. And I say that because I was reading a commentary some time ago, and I forgot who said it, but the comment was, he was a very good monk, but he had this problem, and his problem was consciousness. Consciousness is a problem, because consciousness naturally arises by presenting a false view, and he had that problem. He studied, he lived at a time when there were a number of amazingly good teachers,


and I think the first teacher he, in the Zen tradition he went to, was named Bai Zhang. When he went to Bai Zhang, he had already studied a great deal. I don't know exactly what he studied, but he was known to be very well studied. Perhaps he had already studied many of the great vehicle teachings, I'm not sure. Still he went to study with a teacher named Bai Zhang, but Bai Zhang died not too long after they met. So he continued his studies with one of Bai Zhang's main students, main successors, named Guishan. Now some people tell the story that Guishan was able to see that this monk, and his name was


Xiang Yan, which means fragrant cliff. The cliff of fragrance. And this teacher Guishan was able to recognize this fragrant cliff and its great potential. So one day Guishan said to Xiang Yan, I don't really want to hear about all your extensive studies of the scriptures. You don't need to tell me about all that you've learned, parentheses, but I know you've studied a lot. I would like you to tell me an essential word, a pivotal word about yourself before you were born,


before you entered your mother's womb, before you knew about east or west. Xiang Yan responded, and I don't know what he said, but I did hear that Guishan did not accept his response. And I think he tried over and over to express a word, a word about his self before he entered his mother's womb. And Guishan couldn't agree with him about it.


And then finally there came to a climax where he said, please tell me what it is. And Guishan wouldn't tell him what it is. This it that he wants him to tell him about is something that's out there separate from the mind constructed by Guishan. And he wants the teacher to tell him what it is. He thinks that this self that was there before his mother is one of these its.


But if you point at the it, even if you're right, you turn away from conscious construction only. So the teacher wouldn't do it. In accordance with that teacher's maybe great-grandfather, let's say so, we have Guishan's father, Dharma father is Yakasan. Yakasan's Dharma father is Matsu. Matsu's Dharma father is Nanyue. Nanyue's Dharma father is Huineng, the sixth ancestor. And as I mentioned at Green Gulch last week or so ago, when Nanyue met the sixth ancestor, the sixth ancestor said,


what is it, what is it that thus comes? And Nanyue said, to say it's this, this is the point. So Guishan's ancestors will not usually say this is it. They won't point at it and distract people from looking at the fact that our mind is built on this and it. Or I know it. Or myself is it. Or myself isn't it. He wouldn't go along with that. So Xiangyan left Guishan and for some reason or other he went to visit another one of the sixth ancestor's disciples who was still alive. No, he wasn't alive.


He went to visit the tomb of one of the sixth ancestor's great disciples. One of the sixth ancestor's disciples besides Nanyue, another one of the disciples was the national teacher Zheng. Nanyang Zheng. He went to visit the national teacher's grave site and he hung out in the grave site of the national teacher for some time just taking care of the grave site. Getting food, sitting on the ground, cleaning the area around the national teacher's memorial site. At Tassajara we have a memorial site for the founder of Tassajara Suzuki Roshi and there's also a stupa there for Katagiri Roshi. And we take care of that place.


So imagine somebody coming to Tassajara and just going up and hanging out up there at the grave site taking care of it. I don't know if people at Tassajara would allow that. But anyway, that's what he did somehow. And it worked out for him to do that. And in the process of taking care of the area he was sweeping the ground around the ashes site, around the memorial. And he swept his rake or his broom through some pebbles off the yard into the bamboo grove at the edge. And when the pebble hit the bamboo, when that sound happened he realized conscious construction only. And became free of his problem of consciousness. And then he followed that practice by offering his students


similar opportunities to realize this basic summary of the Great Vehicle. And I'll tell you some of the ways he taught later. So in the third chapter of this summary of Mahayana, this embracing of the Great Vehicle a question is asked, what state is entered in understanding conscious construction only? What's it like? How is entry into conscious construction only, mind only? And what is it like? And the answer in the third chapter is like the verse in the second chapter.


One enters into unity, into duality pertaining to image and vision or image and insight and into multiplicity. So the insight or the understanding that what you're looking at is conscious construction only. You realize that there's the unity of that. And you also realize that the insight and the understanding seems to be one component and the image of what is understood seems to be another component. And you also understand that there's multiplicity in this unity. So this is what it's like. This is the state that's entered.


Has these three dimensions. So these three points constitute the entrance. It also asks, before describing what it's like to enter into this realization, it asks, who? Who enters into this realization? And the answer of who is Bodhisattvas who have permeated their continuities


of their consciousness with much learning of the great vehicle. Who have already rendered service to all the innumerable Buddhas who appear in the world, who have already entered the true state of definitive commitment or single faith and who, through well-matured meditation, have increased their good roots and thus fully accumulated the stores of wisdom and merit. Now, it looks like Xiang Yuan was one of those people. He had assembled the merit and virtue stores by lots of study and lots of devotion to the innumerable Buddhas. So he was ready for this. And he practiced meditation.


So one might wonder, well, what about me? Should I wait for a long time before I even try this meditation? Because maybe there's no point since I haven't done much learning of the great vehicle. Part of learning much of the great vehicle is to hear about learning much of the great vehicle. So I don't know how much study of the great vehicle we have done. But we need to do quite a bit. And we need to continue doing it


while we're sweeping around the memorial to the ancestors. This text is a memorial to the ancestors. I don't see any ashes in this text. But this is a memorial to the great Bodhisattva Asanga. And I'm cleaning around this memorial all the time. Not all the time, just a lot. I sometimes take study breaks and study other memorial sites because there's quite a few ancestors in the memorial site of all the ancestors and all the Buddhas. While cleaning, while taking care of the memorials to the ancestors,


one is studying the great vehicle and developing the causes and conditions for understanding the unity of this world. Understanding that the self has multiplicity. As a matter of fact, has total multiplicity. In other words, the self is comprehensive. And the self converges onto, you could say, you. Or you could say, me. It converges, it's a comprehensiveness that converges, and the place it converges is the mind, which imagines that it's not convergent. And what it's not convergent with has independent existence of itself.


This is part of the pebbles and weeds that are growing around the ancestors' transmission to us. Use new white rain shampoo tonight, and tomorrow your hair will be sunshine bright. White rain, white rain. This product is not any longer readily available at your local supermarket


or in the beauty section of the drugstore. But its essential function is still here. The shampoo, which washes away, washes away what? Distractions from the teaching. Now, we're taking care of the teaching, perhaps, all the time, by calmly meditating on the ancestors' teaching of the great vehicle, which is understanding of the mind. And the mind has duality, and the mind has unity.


And the unity is the ultimate character that the mind imagines that there's duality. And the teaching about that is a bodhisattva's responsibility to care for. Care for the duality of mind. Caring for the duality of mind is realizing the unity. Taking care of the appearance that things exist separate on their own


is part of the care of the ancestors' memorial site. In a sense, the place we practice is the memorial site of the ancestors. In the story of Xiangyan, there's quite a bit of discussion about what a hard time he had cleaning, caring for, tidying up all the duality of mind. The duality and multiplicity of his mind. From this duality and multiplicity, he kept trying to offer his teacher expressions of his self before there's any duality.


Before he knew about duality. His teacher saying, give me a word before there was duality. And while he was working with duality and multiplicity, he kept offering things to his teacher, but they were not accepted. When he heard the sound of the pebble striking bamboo, that sound, as they heard, was a word. And it's a word because that's what our mind does to sounds of stones hitting bamboo. And he understood that that sound was a word. And understanding that the sound's a word is understanding that the sound is a conscious construction.


And the bamboo was a word. And he understood that that word too. Those words, were the words his teacher was waiting for. Xiang Yang didn't say, but that was the word that his teacher was waiting for. Reminds me, I was just recently talking to Ted, helping him find his place there. And I felt that I was uttering the words of an ancestor when I said that. You found your place, that's your place. He was looking for his place, but he didn't know until I told him that that was his place.


Now you know, right? This is your place. And back in the 60s, there was a book called, The Yaqui Way of Knowledge, written by a person, it says on the book, written by Carlos Castaneda. And in the book, Carlos Castaneda wrote that he met this Mexican, not Mexican, but anyway, Central American, somebody who lived in Mexico, I don't know if people think he was a Mexican, this guy named Don Juan. And Don Juan told him one night, see you later, tonight I want you to find your place. So he walked around in the dark around Don Juan's house all night, looking for his place, but he couldn't find it. He was walking around the ancestor's memorial site, looking for his place, but he couldn't find it.


The next morning, he met Don Juan again, and Don Juan said, did you find your place? And he said, I couldn't find it. Don Juan said, where did you go to sleep? He said, over there next to that rock. He said, that's your place. But he worked hard all night to find his place. So the one who finds her place is the one who works really hard all night. And then when she's done working and collapses, the place she collapses is the place she realizes freedom from mind. And freedom from mind is the place where the whole universe converges on you at your place.


But you have to work at it for a while, most people, and maybe you've done enough. And maybe today you'll find your place. I don't know. But if not, it's pretty clear what we need to do is keep studying. Keep studying these great vehicle teachings, which are telling us to find our place where we are, realizing that the place where we are seems like it's here and there. The place we are seems to be like we're here and there's a there over there. There's an Aki and an Aya. It seems that way, but that's the way it seems. And we have to clean up that mess of here and there. Not disparage it, not put it down. Realize that that's part of realizing that Aki and Aya are the same thing. It's just a conscious construction that there's an over there.


That something's out there separate from us. That's a conscious construction. But we have to be kind to the duality and the multiplicity. And we have to study the teachings which tell us all about this. We have to study the teachings of the ancestors, who studied the teaching of the ancestors. And studying the teachings of the ancestors is called serving many Buddhas. And studying and practicing compassion and calmly accepting the appearance of duality is part of what it means to enter the realm where we become free of the mind. So I understand some of you may have to leave.


So I'm really sorry that you won't hear the story of Xiang Yan this afternoon. But I think that's a bit much to give you that story right now. But Xiang Yan did offer his own... His teacher said, show me yourself before your mother was born. And Xiang Yan said, Somebody's up in a tree. Somebody's up in a tree. Some people embellish the story and say that the tree is a tree on the side of a cliff. The teacher's name is Fragrant Cliff, right? So Fragrant Cliff puts a tree on the edge of the cliff. Because trees are usually not a thousand feet tall.


But cliffs can be. So there's a tree on the edge, on the side of this cliff. A fragrant tree. Xiang Yan. And there's a person up in that tree. And that person's holding on to a branch of the tree with her teeth. And her feet cannot reach a lower branch. And her hands can't hold the branch. She's just hanging by her teeth. And it's not possible to get any assistance with her primate appendages. Someone down below, who needs help, asks, What's the meaning of the ancestor coming from the West? If he answers, she loses her life.


If she doesn't, she's not caring for this person's request. What should he do? When you're like that, what do you do? What should you do or what do you do when you're like that? So, this was Xiang Yan's koan that his teacher put him in. Now he asks his students the same situation. When you're just like that, do you want to get yourself into a situation like that? You can't really answer the question. You can't really respond. Unless you're in that situation, right? That wouldn't be appropriate for you to not be there and say what you'd do if you were there. That's not really what we're talking about.


But who wants to go there? But this is what Guishan invited Xiang Yan to go to. To that place. The place before you were born, before you entered your mother's womb. That place is the same place. Where you're not holding on to anything except by your teeth and you need to open your mouth to talk. So that's the story for this afternoon. And you might consider while you're having lunch and playing with babies, some babies are coming. Is your baby around? So we have Carl's coming. Big Carl. And we have some tiny Robin and Yaron's baby are coming. Supposedly. So while you're having lunch and playing with babies and cleaning around the Ancestors Memorial,


you might consider if you really want to be around the Ancestors Memorial because cleaning around the Ancestors Memorial is right in the neighborhood of this place. This amazing place. Where you're holding on and yet you have to let go. But if you let go, what will happen to you? That place. When you're supposed to come up with something about where you are and yet it's difficult to be right where you are. So that's the question. And this afternoon I'll give you the answer. Or maybe you'll give me the answer. Is there anything you want to bring up about this teaching? Yes.


You said a number of times, freedom from mind. Is that different from freedom in mind? Freedom from, different from freedom in? It would be freedom from and it would be freedom from in. But freedom from in doesn't mean you eliminate in. You don't have to eliminate mind to be free from it and you don't have to eliminate in mind or out of mind. You're also free of out of mind. You're free of out of your mind. In and out, east and west. You're free of that stuff. When you realize the nature of mind, you'll be free of in and out of mind. And your hair will be sunshine bright.


Any other wise cracks? Yes. Can you say something more about what you mean by multiplicity? There is eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, mind consciousness, tongue consciousness, touch consciousness. And all of those have multiplicity. So, it's a unity, but it has, it's comprehensive. It includes all variety of phenomena. Is there another way to say nothing is separate? Is there another way to say nothing is separate? Well, you can say that, yeah. Or it's another way to say that separation is just a conscious construction. That separation is a conscious construction.


But that doesn't mean that when you realize that there's no variety, that the multiplicity of the universe isn't still totally part of the mind. It's just that it's not, not the mind. Yes. Shanyan's experience of the pebble hitting the bamboo. Yeah. Have you had an experience like that? No. Yes. I heard this teaching also that Dogen gives about your first step to break through delusion is to see that, aha, I'm in the thick of it. But I'm really, and we talk a lot about this in these Zen center places.


But I don't hear a lot about what is beyond that. How is it really? And I wonder if the teaching that we're studying right now is really about that. It's not really about it. It just says that there is a reality that's beyond mind, that transcends mind. There is a life that is free of mind. There is freedom from conscious construction. Conscious construction, you know, understanding that is where it's at, but it itself is a trap. Understanding that is the price of freedom from that enclosure. But we don't talk about what's outside the enclosure because


as soon as you start talking about it, you're back in the enclosure again. I mean, you can talk about it, but you should understand you're just talking about it from within the enclosure. But there is a realization which is not just functioning inside of the enclosure. And that realization is called the Buddhas, the awakened ones. But the awakened ones are not enclosed inside of awakened ones. They're not enclosed inside of the duality of the awakened ones and the non-awakened ones. But the awakened ones who are free of mind communicate to those who live within mind, who are caught by mind. They send them messages, like these teachings,


are messages which are conveyed from freedom from mind into mind to help those in mind to become free of mind. So, to use words to become free of words, and then once free of words, to use words again to free others from words. To use mind to understand teachings about mind, to apply study of mind to free of mind, and then once free of mind, send teachings to minds, which think that there's mind and objects, or self and other. But this realm of reality, which is free of mind, is not inside or outside mind, because those are just more mental constructions.


It's so free of mind, it can be totally intimate with mind, and it can liberate mind. But when it is involved in the process of liberating mind, it uses the stuff of mind to liberate mind, which is basically words and concepts. And then earlier in the teaching, how is that linked with the alaya seeds, the storehouse seeds, that the people who are in the thick of delusion like us, with continuous intention, actually transforming that mind. Yeah, like I said here, like I read, who used to realize this?


It's those who have, I think, what is it, who enters the nature of things. All the bodhisattvas who have permeated their continuities of their consciousness with much learning. They permeated their consciousness with much learning. They permeate their unconscious, which supports their conscious. So in our conscious life, we study, and as we study, that changes our unconscious, simultaneous with the study. Then the transformed consciousness, unconscious, supports the arising of more conscious, which kind of wants to do more study, which transforms the unconscious, the storehouse consciousness. So the storehouse consciousness gets transformed and transformed and transformed in the process of supporting transformed active consciousnesses, which can hear teachings and study them, which can hear instructions about how to work with the teaching and practice them,


which transforms the support for the consciousness. So this process goes on. And when the storehouse consciousness, when our unconsciousness is completely transformed, that's when we realize this conscious construction only, its duality and its multiplicity. So that means we can apply this teaching to everything that happens. We can not just realize the unity, but realize it together with duality and multiplicity. This leads to the complete transformation. And this is then the realization of the true body of Buddha, which has been educating us all along, and now the education process has come to fruit and starts its work of educating all those who are still in the process of learning.


Yes? I'm coming to a place or a position that I sense that maybe the definitions and the words can totally be, or the description can totally be what is undescribable. So the undescribable and the describable can come from the same place. The describable and the undescribable are unity, and they also are duality. But the duality is not true. I don't see the duality. Well, it would be good if you could learn to see it.


It's right there, you just demonstrated it. Yes? A practical takeaway when I read this book, I just want to throw out to see if it's done well. You're already to go? You're taking away already? That's pretty good. I don't know, maybe. I don't know. You're at the end of the book, I see. Well, I read the whole thing. Yeah, right. Yeah. Say it again. Fine. I negotiated this well.


Great. So is it congruent with what you're saying? Yes. Yes. While I was driving here, I wanted to ask a question actually. I was remembering reading a koan in the, I think it's called the Blue Cliff Notes. Yeah, right. Blue Cliff Notes. There's a college book series called Cliff Notes, where they summarize various works of literature. But literally it is Blue Cliff Notes or Blue Cliff Record. So they have like 100 koans or something like that. Yeah, 100 koans. And I read through it and I got the one that really struck me.


And it was, somebody came to the Zen master and asked him, so what's the difference of Zen teaching in this monastery versus another one or something like that. And the response was, over here we die in the middle of the day, not in the middle of the night. Say again. In this monastery, we die in the middle of the day, not in the middle of the night. And, so hearing you today actually, like the talk today, I was just like reflecting upon the construction of mind and whatnot, like creating self. And maybe the willingness of the perception of self to be let go. And I would like to ask you for some comments about that in the light of whatever you described today. Lovely.


Blue Cliff comments. Lovely. Anything else? You can kneel there and pick it up. I vow to enter them.


Buddha's way is unsurpassable. I vow to become it. Do you want me to announce it? I did.