2022-11-D6-AW: November 2022 Sesshin, Day 6: Hekiganroku #86, Ummon's "Everybody has their own light"
6:15PM Nov 15, 2022
Sensei Amala Wrightson
This is day six of our autumn seven day sesshin fourth of November 2022 and we're going to take up a case today from the Hekiganroku: The Blue Cliff Record is number 86 "Ummon's 'Everyone has his own light'". And here's the case. Ummon said, "Everybody has their own light. Though when you try to see it, you cannot everything is darkness. What is everybody's light?" Later he answered himself saying, "The temple storeroom, the tower gateway". He also said, "A precious thing isn't as good as nothing". We'll learn we'll start off with a bit of background on one one has his Chinese name is Yunmen and his dates are 862 to 949. It will be reading from "The Golden Age of Zen" by John Wu, an old classic.
John Moss masters like other men, made divided into two types. Some are slow breathers others are fast breathers of the five houses of Chan equation Tong Xiang and phi in belong to the slow breathers while Lin-chi and Yunmen belong to the fast breathers of these two Linji. It's Rinzai breathes fast enough, but Yunmen Breeze faster still. Then cheese way is like the Blitzkrieg, he kills his foes in the heat of the battle, he added shouts under fire. When the lion roars all the animals take cover. No one can cut and counter him without his head being chopped off by him. It makes no difference whether you are a Buddha, or bodhisattva, or a Patriarch Lin-chi will not spare you if he should chance to encounter you. So long as you bear a title or occupy any position, Lindsay will send out his true person of no title to kill you off in a split second. So terrible. So terrible is Linji. But more terrible is Yunmen. Lin-chi only kills those whom he happens to encounter. Your men's massacre is universal. He does away with all people even before they were born. To him, the true person of no title is already at the second moon. Therefore a phantom not worth the trouble of killing young men. seldom if ever resorts to shouts or beatings. Like a sorcerer, he kills by cursing. His tongue is inconceivably voluminous, and what makes the case worse, he is the most eloquent of the Chan masters. So we're encountering one of the great individuals of golden ages in Tang Dynasty Chan.
Yunmen is a radical iconoclast, in one of his sermons to his assembly. He related the legend that the Buddha immediate left immediately after his birth, with one hand pointing to heaven and the other pointing to Earth, walked around in seven steps looked at the four quarters and declared above the heavens below the heavens, I alone and the honored one. After relating the story human said, If I were a witness at the scene, I would have knocked him to death at a single stroke and given his flesh to dogs for food. This would have been some contribution to the peace and harmony of the world.
vermelha vermelha kurti fared no better with them. One day beating the drum he announced. Villa Mcode. His realm of wonderful joy is shattered to pieces bowl in hand. He is now heading towards a city in Hunan, too big for some rice girl to eat. It seems that Yunmen had no respect for any person he wants quoted these words. He who hears the Dow in the morning can afford to die in the evening. Everybody knows that there was Confucius who added out of these words. Probably the most, most revered sage in in China, up there with Lao Tzu was Confucius who added these words, but Yunmen did not even mention his name, but merely commit commented airily, if even a worldly man could have felt like that, how much more must we monks feel about the one thing necessary to us? Nor was your men more polite with himself than with others. For instance, he said to his assembly, even if I could utter a wise word by the hearing of which you attain immediate enlightenment, it would still be like throwing audio on your heads. This is to say that even if the master had done all that he could, could have done to and what was expected of him. And even if his words had been instrumental to their awakening, still, the end could never justify the means to young men. Any speech, however, legitimate, from a worldly point of view, is out of place in regard to the eternal Dow. He seems to be obsessed with the primary insight of Loubser. The Dow that can be expressed in words is not the eternal Dow, as Yeoman was interested in nothing else than the eternal Dell, what use could he have? Have for me a words? That is why, whenever he had to make a conference, he always apologizes for speaking or at all, give a lecture in other words, the beginning of his very first sermon as the abbot of Ling Shu monastery is typical. Do not say that I am deceiving you today by means of words. The fact is that I'm put under the necessity of speaking before you, and therefore it's sowing seeds of confusion in your mind. If a true sia should see what I am doing, what a laughingstock I would be in his eyes, but now there is no escape from it. He's He's speaking here of the dilemma of being a Zen teacher, and knowing that words deceive but nevertheless having to use them.
What another Zen Master, I don't remember who but he said that. The speaking of the Dharma was like having to drink soup with rat turds in it.
The great paradox about Yunmen is that on the one hand, he had an extraordinary gift of eloquence, while on the other hand, he had a phobia for the word, as if every word were an intruder into the sacred ground of the inexpressible dowel, what attention that must have created in his mind. Fortunately, we hit upon a heavy solution of this tension with another paradox. The man who has realized his self can stand unharmed in the midst of flames, this is Yunmen. So, even if he talks all day, in reality, nothing pleased his lips and teeth, for he has actually not spoken a single word. Likewise, though he wears clothes and takes his meals every day. Actually, he has not touched a single grain of rice, nor put on a single thread of silk.
The keenness of his mind reached an agonizing degree. He seemed to be sensitive to every motion of his own mind, and his self knowledge enabled him to discern the thoughts and feelings of others. from the same source of sensitivity has sprung many a piercing insight into the secrets of spiritual life. For instance, he said, each of us carries a light within him, but when it is looked at it is turned into darkness. This is the column that we're looking at today. It's slightly phrased slightly differently.
Whoo comments. Here. It is a profound insight Whose authenticity is beyond question. I will explore it a little.
Yunmen was conscious that his way was the narrow way. He appealed only to the highly intelligent. His house has been characterized by all students or Chan as steep and abrupt. In fact, they say that that the reason why the Yunmen line died out was because his, his teaching was so steep of the of the five lineages we just have had two remaining Linji and sailed on rune Zion Soto. He himself wrote a poem descriptive of the style of his Chan. Steep is the mountain of mountain of young men rising straight upward, leaving the White Clouds down below its streams dashing and eddying about allow no fish to linger around the no moment you step into my door, I will really know what kind of ideas you've brought with you what's the use of raising the Duster long settled and an old trick?
Not so many people would would choose this steep mountain path to humans teaching where you just go straight up the mountain. Rather they would prefer a zigzag path that goes slower goes takes it easier the teaching that
dashed everything into smithereens. Now nothing to hold on to. It didn't have to have psychic powers to be able to discern what kind of ideas people coming to the temple. Were bringing with them. If you have a reasonably empty mind, then then you you read people's body language as they approach
such then is the style and aura of the man into whose life and teaching we are going to peep with an undaunted spirit undaunted spirit. We are told that one day young men put his hands into the mouth of a wooden lion and cried at the top of his voice, help help I am bitten to death. Now we are going to put our hands into humans mouth but there is no reason to fear even if we should meet with the same terrible experience of being bitten by a lion lion we could still survive as he did did I think this little piece of story about his playing with what sounds like a toy lion here gives us a sense also have his playfulness
no doubt he was was doing this in order to help his students
not get stuck in into shoulds the notes but to play with the practice to experiment
we'll skip around to the rest of some of this biographical material there's quite a lot of it will just pick up bits and pieces. So he was probably born into a very poor family as he was placed when he was still a boy in a Vinyasa temple as was, we were just reading the other day. Yasutani Roshi. So this was one one way that very poor Buddhist families could cope with a number of mouths they had to feed. He was noted for his exceptional intelligence, and especially for his natural gift of eloquence. And as soon as he was old enough, he had his head shaved and who was ordained. He continued at this place. Serving as attendant to his master has been a master and went deeply into the school which is focuses on the the monastic rules and upholding them in the community. It says all his learning, however, did not satisfy his deepest needs. He felt that it did not throw any light on the most private vital problem of his own self. Hence, he went to see the Chan master Mu Zhao, the disciple of one bowl, hoping for the necessary instructions. But as soon as Mu Zhao saw him, he slammed the door in his face. mudra was living as a hermit in a little hut. When he knocked at the door, Mojo asked from inside, who are you? After he had told him his name, Mojo said, What do you want? And your man replied, I am not yet enlightened on the vital problem of my own self, and I have come to beg for your instructions. At this Mu Zhao opened the door for a little way. But after a quick look at him shattered again. You can see he's maybe starting to think that there's some good material out there on the doorstep. In the following two days, Yunmen knocked and met with the same experience. On the third day, as soon as the master opened the door Yunmen squeezed and pushed him the master grabbed him saying Speak, speak, and human fumbled for something to say, and the master pushed him out saying, You good for nothing, and slam the door. And then he slammed the door so hard, that it actually broke one of your men's feet. And he from that time on, he walked with a limp. This was his, his initiation into Chan, which is in Mojo Zhao, now recognizing his sincerity and his mettle, told him to go and see shockwave phone. Now the great Tang master sipo in Japanese. So he he traveled to the village at the bottom of the mountain where Choi Fung was, and it was probably like a stepping off point for people to climb the mountain, the steep noon when mountain to go and visit the temple. And so he met another monk down in the, in the base camp, so to speak, and asked him if he was going up the mountain that day. And this other monk said that he was so young men hatched a kind of little pot plot asking this monk whether he would be willing to take a message to the Abbot, but to present it as his as his own. And the monk consented to do so. Bad idea. So ingenious, perhaps, your main said after your arrival at the monastery up there, as soon as you see the abbot entering the hall, and the assembly gather together, go forward at once clasp your hands and standing erect before him say poor old man. Why does he not take off the kangaroo from around his neck? The monk did exactly what as he had been told to do. Maybe he was in it for the fun. But she Weifang sensed immediately that these words were not his own. Coming from his seat. He grabbed him firmly saying speak speak as the Poor monkey You do not want to say to a fan pushed him away and said those words in your yours. At first, he still insisted that they were his own words. But the relentless master called for his attendance to come with ropes and sticks. frightened out of his words, the monk confessed that they were not his words, just a footnote about these ropes and sticks. Even right up until the 20th century, we know from the biography of the great Chan master interclub cloud that there was corporal punishment in the Chinese monasteries, because shunyata himself was subjected to a beating when he, he had fallen into a river and nearly drowned and was therefore late for an assignment, he headed a temple. That doesn't mean we should have corporal punishment in our temple at all, in fact, read recently are in a book by Andy Ferguson, where he goes to visit places where he thinks Bodhidharma might have been or, or taught. And he talks to one Abbot at one of these of these Chinese temples, who says a little bit about the corporal punishment. And he says, No, we don't do that here now. And we wouldn't because you have to be ready for that kind of treatment. And it's not in most cases, it's not appropriate. He's talking here actually not so much about corporal punishment, but about blows and shouts as being a meat teaching method. They can be helpful for people who are already deeply clicked it in themselves, they just they just kind of act as a as a goat for their for their deepening of their practice, but in probably 99% of cases, this kind of stuff can be damaging and is not is not a useful teaching method in fact, it can be abuse so we need to keep this in mind when we're reading these old stories that the the shots and blows that we do see are skillful means. And maybe they weren't always skillful. We don't know. It all depends on the on the motives of the of the person using these methods and on the mature spiritual maturity of the person receiving them.
So anyway, back to our story. So there's this innocent monk is sees the ropes and sticks and then confesses, they are not my words, there was a monk from Czech young, I met at the village who taught me to speak thus. Then the abbot said to his community, go all of you to the village below to greet the one destined to be the spiritual guide of 500 persons and invite him to come
What was it that made him say these words on the basis of this these what seems like an insult to the to him from this monk at the foot of the mountain, poor old man, why does he not take off the cane from his neck? A cane king as a Chinese instrument of punishment little bit like the stocks in medieval times and European countries. And so you have your head inside of some kind of frame and you're locked in, you're locked into it. And this image of the cane is sometimes used to refer to To the responsibility that a monk or a nun takes on when agreeing to be the abbot of a big monastery the iron can not very appealing if that's what it's going to be like, but it's pointing to the the huge responsibility that it is to take on the job of teaching and administering in a in a big community
we can be very grateful to those who do take on this responsibility but in this in this case, the young men as is seems to be saying
seems to be insulting them the current Abbot. But perhaps there's also something else in here that he's saying that the the abbot the current Abbot reads as being our his, my, my spiritual successor who's coming and sometimes these Masters would have a premonition they would have they would have a dream or a vision that that their successor was on his way or her way that so and thus the, the the Sipos response. Go all of you to the village below and greet the one destined to be the spiritual guide of 500 persons and invite him to come.
The next day Yunmen came up to the monastery on seeing him the abbot said, How could you arrive at your prison state, Yun said nothing but just lowered his head. Right from that moment he saw eye to eye with the master. He stayed several here years with Choi Fung, under whose guidance he delved more and more deeply into the profundities of Chan until the master transmitted to him the Dharma seal so there is there is a sense in this story of of comic affinity that, that these two were, were had a deep affinity and we're we're recognizing that right from the start.
Next, Next, John Woo relates to many other masters that human went to visit and encountered had encounters with.
And then there was another another place where the abbot had kept the seat of the the leadership where the where the leader of the assembly would sit. And again, you'll men arrived and and was welcomed as the as the to fill this vacancy that had long been being held at this other temple.
After the demise of a certain master, the Quint, a prince of Guang ordered a young man to be the abbot of a temple called Lencho. At his at his inauguration, the inauguration the prince came in person to attend the meeting, saying your humble disciple begs for your instruction. And Yun said before your eyes Lies no other road to Yunmen There was only one road not many roads. But what is the one road he had in mind? In the the answer to this crucial question lies the touchstone of all his philosophy
for young men as far as format, so, the one thing necessary is the realisation of this one, this one who is none other than everybody's own self. This is not only the one goal, but also the one road for the simple reason that there is no road to lead to the self outside of itself. And this is this is an aspect of the case we're going to have a look at today. This one who is your true self is complete in itself, and lacking nothing. Time and time again, your men asked his assembly, are you lacking anything? Time and again, he reminded them that the only one thing that only one thing is essential that all other things are of no concern to them, that this vital measure they must rely on in this vital matter, they must rely on themselves, for no one else can take their place. All sermons were like the signs of a mute person trying to hint at what is in his mind. And the following discourse is as typical as any. Here it is. My duty compels me to attempt the impossible. You even in telling you to look directly into yourself, and to be unconcerned about other things. I am already burying, burying the real thing under verbiage. If you proceed from there and sit out on a quest of words and sentences, sentences, cajoling your brains over the logical meanings, working out 1000 possibilities and 10,000 subtle distinctions and creating endless quote, questions and debates. All that you will gain is a glib tongue while at the same time, getting farther and farther away from the Dow. With no risk to you're wondering if this thing could really be found in words, are there not enough words in the three vehicles and the 12 divisions of scriptures? Why should there be a special transmission outside the Scripture? And if you could get at it by studying the various interpretations and lunar commentaries on such terms as potentiality and intelligence, then how is it that the state the saints of the 10 stages, who could expound the dharma as resourcefully as the clouds and rain should still have incurred the reproach that they only saw the self nature vaguely as through a veil of Gore's from this weekend, know that to follow the intentions and vagaries of your mind is to be separated from yourself as far as Earth from sky. But if you have really found your true self, then you can pass through fire without being burned, speak a whole day without really moving your lips and teeth. And without having really uttered a single word, wear your clothes and take your meal every day, without really touching a single grain of rice or a single thread of soap. Even this talk is about a decoration on the door of our house. The important thing is your experiential realization of the state. Even this talk is the same a mere decoration on the door of our house
perhaps in an effort to transcend words, your men develop a cognitive teaching response. That was came to be called his his one word pass. This was just one one of his his teaching methods, but it's it's one that we we can admire and enjoy. And what this involved was. Somebody would ask him a question and he would reply with a single character answer so A couple of examples question what is the right Dharma Heir I that's e y e answer all knowing. Question How do you see the wonderful coincidence between the chick tapping inside its shell and the Hinz pin packing from outside. This was an image that was used to depict the the relationship between the student liberating itself him or herself while the teacher helps from the outside, so the student is the chicken so the egg and teachers like the the mother hen on the outside helping the the CIC to find its way out of the the the prisoners of self. So how do you see the wonderful coincidence between the chip tapping inside its shell? And the hints picking from the outside? Answer? Echo question what is the one road of Yunmen? Answer personal experience
what is the Dow? Question What is the Dow? Answer go?
Is this much more but we'll we'll stop with the biographical material at this point. And just finish by saying that we don't I couldn't find any information about his manner of his death. We did have a date but not any any last words that I could see given given the reference works we have. So anyway, anyway, now turning to our case
everybody has their own light. Though when you try to see it. You cannot. Everything is darkness. What is everybody's light? Later he answered himself saying the temple storeroom the Tower Gateway. He also said, a precious thing isn't as good as nothing.
So Christian, many of us has have in one form or another? What is this light? This this light that we all possess? And why? Why if if it exists, can't I see it? How can I how can I get around this? How can I break through and experience this light? While answering the why part? We have the though the words from the other TomSka sutra, the Buddha which we've already mentioned. In these two shows the sesshin. One wonder of wonders, all beings are borders endowed with wisdom and compassion and virtue, lacking nothing. But because people's minds are turned upside down by delusive thinking they fail to perceive this. So this is this is the fourth it's worth the answer to the why question. Our minds are turned upside down by delusive thinking. And so we fail to see our Buddha Nature turn upside down by the looser thinking. The essence of it is the conviction that we have that we're separate that we are standing over here and the world is out there is stuck in the delusion of separation as to as to how how we can and respond to this, this predicament the Buddha gives a hint in what he says in his statement, he starts wonder of wonders is he he cried
and all of a statement you could say is is contained within that, that ah that wonder of wonders to, to bring a sense of wonder, to practice a sense of of curiosity heard a snippet of somebody on speaking on the radio back in New Zealand before I lived and it was it was a realtor of a book. His name was David Robson and he had published a book called staying curious and data will list the different kinds of social science research on on
different kinds of attitudes and how they affected people's people's work and research and so forth. And he had this sort of slogan that curiosity and wonder can supercharge the mind when people are curious, then it actually can increase increase the levels of patience. Because somebody who's curious will, will appreciate the process. Patience is so important in practice and so needs to be developed given that we come from cultures where, where immediate gratification is, is the norm released as an expectation
apparently, curious people are more willing to explore contrary opinions and engage with people who are different from them
children are naturally curious, and often it gets gets knocked out of them one way or another. And this, this negatively affects and fake affects their their learning
so, to bring curiosity and wonderment or wonder to our work with the koan.
wonder of wonders it's the the outcome of the Buddha's search, but also necessarily something that was there or from the very beginning of it we could say that wonder is actually an essential part of being human. This is the ability to, to keep learning.
read a passage from little book on cosmology, the one that I mentioned in a couple of earlier TV shows by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Chaga. And it's called wonder in the stars
in this process of becoming here, Human we're searching for ongoing guidance. He's he's talking about how we human beings have kind of lost our way. And this has led to destroying the biosphere and and how we need to find our way out of this, this date and literally we are searching for ongoing guidance, we will need to know what we can rely on. So many of our former certainties are gone now, or are in the process of changing. In order to move into the future we need to know what will be there for us. First of all, there are the stars we can count on their presence, their immense fiery light. In the depths of night they are reassurance that we can find our way they stun us with their beauty, drawing us into wonder mirror it was a star or a planet actually that prompted the Buddha's Great Awakening planet Venus the morning star. They stun us with their beauty drawing us into wonder. The sense of wonder is one of our most valuable guides on this ongoing journey into our future as form human beings. Wonder is a gateway through which the universe floods in and takes up residence with the weather in us consider the stars they shine down on earth for for one and a half billion years. Then these new creatures emerged those these humans, what was different about them is that they are amazed every time they behold the stars. Their amazement, aspires works of art and science. Hundreds of 1000s of years later, humans discovered that it was these stars that forged the elements of their bodies, most of what we made up of come out of exploding supernovae. By dwelling in a world of wonder, humans will lead to realize that they were children of the stars, something intuited by early maths and uncovered by modern science, they came to understand that everything in the universe then forms a huge interconnected family, what we can call all my relations. I think this refers to a Native American gratitude ritual from this area. Wonder is not just another emotion, it is rather an opening into the heart of the universe. Wonder is the pathway into what it means to be human, to taste the lusciousness of Sun ripened fruit, to endure the bleak agonies of heartbreak, to exalt over the majesty of existence. The universe's energies penetrate us and awaken us. We could add here, the the temple gate in the storeroom. And this list of things that we can be enlightened by the universe's energies penetrate us and awaken us through each moment of wonder, no matter how small, we participate in the entrance of primal energies into our lives. however insignificant we may feel with respect to the age and size of the universe. We are even so beings in whom the universe shivers in wonder at itself. By following this wonder, we can discover the ongoing story of the universe, the story that we tell, but a story that is also telling us so we are the light itself. But if we try to reflect on ourselves, we objectify ourselves, we're divided. It's it's really only in a state of profound wonder, where body and mind are unified in this sense of open absorption, that we can experience our own subjectivity. It's in US ASEAN, that this is possible. We we really need to do is stop trying to grasp and pin down our own lives, but to approach we approach it with this curiosity, this wonder, rather than rather than a desire to possess. So much human suffering comes out of people fulfilling their desire to possess and it comes out of objectifying not only ourselves, but also the people in our lives, especially people who are different, all kinds of objects. suffocation has happened in our world that is so destructive jet jet to Kate furcation of nature of women, of people of color, indigenous people, people of different sexualities. And so the list goes on. We lose sight of the subjectivity of each and every one of us.
Everything is darkness. He says about trying to see this, this light of ours can understand this in two ways the darkness of of the separation, or just being prepared and being willing to tolerate the darkness of not knowing, not being able to pin down not being able to put in a box or reality. Well, mine asks, What is everybody's light? No one in the assembly says anything. And so he patiently grandmotherly replies for the assembly, the temple storeroom, the Tower Gateway. And demonstrating the meaning of versus one of one of the points of the koan. Where we can say we can observe that these these two things as the temporal gate in the storeroom, will probably just steps away from the Dharma hall with us. Teaching was happening. And they're not particularly grim, glamorous parts of the the temple. Important actually essential to the temples functioning, but not usually seen with as being particularly valuable. One vision has the temple storeroom and the corridor with the you know, the temple gateway in the corridor, sort of pointing to these things as more like connective tissue of the temple. Then there's a pause in Oman says a precious thing is not as good as nothing. There are usually lots of precious things in temples Butterfingers, scrolls, artwork, highly cherished things. But in at the temple or in our own lives, there may be things that things that we We especially appreciate because we can be they they shine for us we are more aware of the light, our own light in these, these artworks, but all ones reminding us that even the finest and the best things are not as good as nothing. All things are compounded, all things are conditioned, and therefore will eventually fall apart. We can't rely on them as suffering built in the and even beyond just the things of the temple, we can cherish enlightenment or we can cherish the stillness and silence of sesshin but if we attach to these things, then we turn them into objects. They become things and and then are subject to distribution.
So wonder, to approach things with wonder is to approach them without grasping without assuming anything without expecting anything. Just questioning just holding in attention. We'll stop now and recite the four vows