1:09PM Mar 12, 2021
Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede
This is March 7 2021. And I'm going to take up a call on today. This is number 23. In the Mu mon con or the gateless barrier, think neither good nor evil.
And here's how the case goes. It's a long one. The sixth patriarch that's way down. The sixth patriarch was pursued by monk meal up to die yurei. The patriarch seeing meal coming, laid the robe in the bowl on a rock and said, this robe symbolizes the faith, is it to be fine for you may take it away. Neil tried to lift it but it was as as immovable as a mountain faltering and trembling. Meo said, I have come for the Dharma not for the robe. I beg you, les brother, to open the way for me. The sixth patriarch said, thinking are neither good nor evil. At this very moment. What is the original face of monk meal? At this monk, monk meal was all at once enlightened, his whole body was dripping with sweat. With tears flowing, he bowed down and asked, besides the secret words and meanings, is there anything else deeper still? the patriarchs said, what has been revealed to you is not secret. If you look into your own true self, what is secret is right there. Neil said, though I trained under Obi with the other monks, I could not awaken to my true self. Now, thanks to your instruction. I am like one who has drunk water and actually knows for himself whether it is cold or warm, les Brother, you are my teacher. To which the patriarch said we both have Obi for our teacher live up to your attainment with care.
So some biographical material, the sixth patriarch, with recent years, would say the sixth ancestor who is way known, his full name is da da Zhang, Wei naam. And scholars say that Zen as we know, it, originated with way known. Yes, Bodhidharma is considered the founder of Zen school. But it's, it's starting with whey knowing that it became seido eyes set the Word became fully Chinese, with whey non and, and then the Japanese very much followed with that style, as so. So have we.
There is a quite a long story about way nung maybe just mentioned a few points of his biography for those of you who haven't heard it before.
Yeah, he's said to what his date is dates are seven. So he was born in 738. Excuse me. He was born in 638. He was the son of a civil servant, who had lost his position and then died young and left way nung and the rest of the family penniless. The The story is that we're young had no schooling, and that is a youth. He peddled firewood to support himself and his mother. And then one day while he's delivering wood to a customer, he heard a monk reciting the Diamond Sutra is mind open, and they experienced deep realization according to one account, This happened as soon as he heard the phrase from the Diamond Sutra, arouse the mind without its abiding anywhere. Great, great summation of the Zen way, rouse the mind be alert, aware, without abiding without getting stuck anywhere. Well, just to get through the high points of this, this is this was when he was only 23 way known. And he found his way to the mountain of the leading teacher of the time, the fifth ancestor, remember, we known and yet become the sixth. And the fifth ancestor asked him a couple questions and sent him off to the rice pounding area. I still remember seeing that on one of my pilgrimages in China. We saw the, the stone that was used, allegedly, by way known to it's kind of it's a little like a, like an elliptical trainer. But with stone, to to pound the rice. Well, after some months of weight on working there and the margins of the monastery, the fifth patriarch said that he needed a name a successor. And he announced a contest for this and he he told all the monks that anyone who believes that He's worthy of transmission should write a a verse on a on a wall, there are very prominent wall in the monastery. And they, they they turn to the head, mog, Shen Shu, and said, Come on, you're gonna have to step up to the plate here and do this. So according to the story, Shen Shu agonized over it and finally wrote on the wall, the following verse, the body is the Bodhi tree, and is the tree of wisdom. The body is the Bodhi tree, the mind is like a clear mirror, moment by moment, wipe the mirror carefully, let there be no dust upon it. So the fifth ancestor, when he saw the poem, he, he praised it, he said, Good, good. But nothing more than that. And then, way nung out there on the fringe of the monastery compound, he heard the other monks were talking about this poem, by the fifth by the head monk. And how the fifth ancestor had praised it. And he heard it and he thought, Well, I'm filling in here he thought to himself, come on. It's that's not really it. So then, he
found his way over to the wall that that big wall and he wrote his own verse and here's how it reads vodi really has no tree. The mirror too has no stand. From the beginning, there's nothing at all. Where it can any dust alight. That is a different order of understanding. Then that of the head mug, the head monk had had monks verse was emphasizing just just the daily practice working at it. Keeping the mind clear of attachments divides. It's It's It's kind of work based. Keep working, working, working. Training, really. But then why none just obliterates that whole idea, and leaps beyond it and said, this wisdom is no tree, there's no mirror, there's no stand, there's no dust, nothing.
When when the fifth ancestor saw this, he knew that, this young, this young monk, why no one had truly seen into the great matter, but he was afraid and get a lot of this, he was afraid of singling out way nung. And, and because he said of his concerns about jealousy on the part of the other monks, this, this idea is one of quite a few indications in the old stories, that just because you became a monk didn't mean that your mind was terribly pure. He recognized that this newcomer way known, would not be accepted by the rest of the monks as the successor of of the the ancestor, the fifth ancestor. And so worried that, that the other monks would do harm to way nung the fifth ancestor said, you better go into hiding, and he rode way down across the river, and advise them to polish his realization. There it is, there's the polishing, it still goes on, even after enlightenment, to polish his realization, in in secret for more time before emerging as a teacher
significant that even though why nung had shown his enlightenment and his verse and had had come to real true realization still the his teacher, the fifth, fifth ancestor, recognize that you have to go on purifying because what there is this this remnant of unresolved issues, do use a very modern word things in the personality, emotional knots, things still to be ironed out after even after genuine enlightenment. And, and so he said, okay, you're you're awfully young. Get out there and do some mopping up of the work that you started. And then later, you can step forward as my successor.
Well, after the after way long had disappeared. The fifth ancestor announced to the other monks that it was indeed way knowing who he had made his successor. And here's where it gets very human. Where the other monks thought he must have made a mistake. He must have made a mistake. Maybe they thought that he had gotten old enough that he was getting sugary. They wouldn't explain why he passed up the hedmark. I would been there so long. But anyway, they told themselves that they're what they saw is their, their rival, he the young way known, had had somehow gotten away with something. Yeah, he got away with the robe in the bowl. I didn't mention that that the the fifth ancestor I had presented him with these these symbols of transmission, Dharma transmission, the robe and the bowl. And they thought our case, we have to somehow bring justice to all this. And I'm filling in here now. They, they look to this monk meal who we read from in the case already. And they said, Listen, if anyone's gonna catch this guy and bring back the robe in the bowl, it's you. Meal had been a general before he became a monk. So that would tell you a lot about his temperament. They The, the old texts say that he was powerful and body had tremendous willpower. And he led them at first he led this posse of monks off to catch went on. But he soon outdistance the others, and he was left alone, tearing after way known. And that's where that's where the case picks up.
Excuse me, I had said that. I think I said in there that way. nung was a mock at some point. No, he was a lay person. That's what makes this so that's remarkable story. That and has kept it alive for all these centuries is, is it flies in the face of the traditional idea that you can't really practice the garment come to awakening unless you're ordained as a monk. So he was a lay person.
All right, now let's get back to the case.
The sixth patriarch was pursued by monk Meo up to die yurei It's a big prominent mountain there. And then out sort of paraphrase here rather than reading it, word for word. So way known. He glanced back and saw a meal in hot pursuit, he could see that he himself couldn't Out. Out, run the mug. And so he finally laid the robe and the ball on a rock and, and said, Now, this is the dis dramatic encounter. You can see Mele, just just climbing up over a rock. And there they meet face to face, and weigh none lays the the robe in the bowl on a rock and he says you can just see him How, how calmly with with great equanimity and subtleness he said, this robe symbolizes the fate it's just a symbol of the Dharma. Really, do you really think we need to fight over it? Go ahead. Go ahead and take it. And then when when No, he finally now his his goal was right there at hand. He found that he couldn't lift it. That it was as a moveable as a mountain. This robe in law. There's real significance to that, in movable as a mountain. As a symbol of the Dharma, the Dharma
I want to share a story from Akin roasties commentary in the Mu mon con. It's really stuck with me, since I read it many years ago, talks about a Frederick Frank becoming a vegetarian as a small child during World War One. He lived with his family in Holland, which at that time was a neutral country. And so he had been he had just been a mile from the Belgian border. And so he had witnessed what he called the income, prehensile horror of seeing living human flesh in the tatters of German, Belgian and French uniforms, coming across the border on pushcarts, and other improvised ambulances. It sensitized me, Frank said, against all forms of physical violence. During those years, when Frederick Frank was a child, he was forced against his will to eat fish and meat, and became preoccupied with kind of his own colon. Is it more evil to eat whole sardines and a slice of cod?
You know, I learned when when when we were in Tibet is coming. gone up to the roof of the the name slipspace, the most venerated temple in all of Tibet, right there in Lhasa, the joke long, I think somewhere but anyway, doesn't matter. I had heard that I could get my head shaved on the roof of that temple. And the monks were glad to oblige me and then coming down from the roof down these, these narrow stone stairs that have been there, I think it's a it's a, it's a seventh century temple. Coming down those stairs, I had to squeeze by a Tibetan monk, who was struggling up the stairs with a big side of beef over his shoulders. And I later heard that animal This is true, I have to qualify this. But what I heard was that in Tibetan Buddhists or some Tibetan Buddhists believe that it's the number of beings that have to die that determines the karmic consequences of eating meat. And so that I was told so that eating 10 sardines would be eating worse, too, two to have 10 sardines die, in order for you to eat them is worse than one cow dying. So yeah, anyway, let's let that leave that alone. But But now back to the story. He was he was forced to eat meat when he didn't want to. And then one day, he had this revelation. And this is these are his words. It happened in a restaurant, where a fragrant fillet the soul, Amman, Dean was put in front of me. I took my fork, but it refused to touch the fish. I ate the potatoes and never knowingly ate animal flesh again.
The fork would not touch the fish. And monkey meal did not lift the robe.
And now comes the climax of the call on where the sixth patriarch said, said to monk meal. They're faltering and trembling. The patriarch, the patriarch said, thinking neither good nor evil at this very moment. What is the original face of McNeil? There it is. The original face. Another translation has it the original self. And that leads me to talk about the significance of face and self as self
There's so much in the face, I think we're all have have come to appreciate the face as never before this past year. Worse, most faces are behind masks. It's in our face we're presenting ourselves. It's the most expressive Of course, the most expressive part of the body. We pick up a lot from people by body language, their body language, but nothing can match the face for getting a sense of who it is. were facing.
It's a it's a real danger among human beings to become attached to the face. As a matter of vanity,
there's this thing about wrinkles. So many people are don't want to be drawn up and acquire wrinkles as they age. Even though we're told that one on one part particular kind of wrinkle, the crow's feet at the corner of the eyes, crow's feet, there's a correlation between those and good heart health. I guess the link is that they represent a smile. I've read that our true smile is wait is this when you smile with the eyes. Because we can we can learn how to affect a smile with a mouth we can put on a smile with a mouth. I'm told that that's a that's a held up as something to present at all times in the lineage of tech, not Han. Please put up put a smile on your face, no matter what you may be feeling. Show the smile. Which I just dis confounds me how that would be prominent advice to anyone practicing the Dharma. But what they say is that smiling with the eyes is is the real smile. Maybe the twinkling of the eyes would be another way of putting it. And then that comes with these crow's feet. In Japan, at least if not other East Asian countries there's this high value on not revealing your feelings. I was told when I was there that it's a it's a it's a it's a matter of politeness, it's a matter of consideration for other people. Because if you reveal your feelings and your face, some feelings are worse than others, of course. But if you reveal your feelings, then imposes a kind of burden on other people to be able to work with those feelings of yours.
There is a kind of convention in Japan that when you're sitting in ducks on facing the teacher need to knee eyeball to eyeball that you keep your eyes down. And that's what was expected here when when I was my early years of practice. I don't think I don't think I don't remember Roshi Kapleau ever saying that you should keep your eyes down and ducks but it became one of these expectations somehow I don't know how but it didn't. It did. And it didn't hurt if your that most of us were intimidated, intimidated by Roshi Kapleau. And so, in doaktown, sitting inches from him, it would be natural to want to keep our eyes down. It's a sign of humility in Japan, but as the years went by, and when I became a teacher, I encourage people not, not to feel obliged to keep your eyes down and don't side because in doing so, you're missing visual clues. Things that that I can you're missing the visual in my face, and my gestures if your eyes are down. So what I what I tell new students now is it's natural to look up now and then and not to stare, the whole time you're sitting in front of me to look up now and then to not be attached to either having the eyes down or staring at the teacher. I find myself that when I'm, when I'm composing my thoughts in order to speak to compose What I'm saying is I am now actually, that my eyes It helps to have my eyes down. But anyway, we present the self, so much in the face there, I've read that they're 43 muscles in the face.
There are read reports that they're way more smart smile muscles, then there may be more muscles are required to frown than to smile. But that's that's been disputed also, because it depends on the kind of the smile and the kind of frown.
I suppose you could say that if if the face if our face is presents our self identity at small s self, then going beyond the face presents our true self, capital S self.
Our sense of identity is all wrapped up in the face.
Identity is something we need to accept. The danger from Zen perspective is when we become attached to identity attached to small s self at the expense of our true self. In the harco and Chan that, that we did the beginning of this teisho every teisho how koan says and when we turn inward and prove our true nature, that true self is no self, our own self is no self.
And here is waiting on the sixth ancestor challenging monk meal what is without thinking of good or evil at this very moment, what is the original face of mcmeel Show me your true self.
There's this this old saying that the the eyes are the windows to the soul. But we've discovered over this past year that the eyes without the rest of the face. When the rest of the face is concealed behind a mask we're missing so much.
So look forward to being able to see people's faces again.
The first this the first part of that challenge where the sixth ancestor says, thinking neither good nor evil. So the implication is that that meal this mock meal, was thinking that he was this emissary, he was on a mission to see justice done to see to correct an injustice or wrong that had happened with this young way knowing having received the robe and the bowl. There's so much in Zen about going beyond this old dichotomy of right and wrong. And I've often said from the seat that we don't need right and wrong, if we have an understanding of causation. If we can appreciate that some of our words cause harm, and others don't, some of our actions cause harm and others don't, then that's enough. Why bring in this this Abrahamic idea of right and wrong
we can, we can appreciate that this monk meal was not just some galoot who was completely misguided while he was misguided in mistaking the robe in the bowl for the real transmission but but he was obviously someone of great sincerity, great passion and determination. These are all qualities that would serve anyone well in on the path of Zen. And no doubt way nung could see because he could see the McNeil's face and his whole body he could see these were these were remarkable assets of this mug, that he would pursue him to such lengths, even misguided as it was.
There's a colon in the book of serenity, the show Roku, where the great linji rinzai in Japanese Lynch, he said to the assembly, there's a person of a true person of no rank who is always coming out and in through the gates of your face. You beginners have not yet witnessed that one. Look, look. monkstown stepped forward and said, What is the true person of no rank? Lin she got down from a seat and grabbed them. The mogh hesitated. Then she pushed him away and said the true person of no rank what a useless piece of shit.
For this monk meal, it was all about rank. Be the head monk Shen Sure, had outranked the young way knowing so in all kinds of ways he was a monk he was at great seniority there at the monastery. How then, could the young way not have been given the robe in the bowl?
Thinking neither good nor evil.
There is a wonderful words by Rumi, my beloved Rumi, the Sufi Master, who set out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field I'll meet you there when the sole lie Down in that grass The world is too full to talk about ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn't make any sense. Can I especially appreciate these words with this scenario of the why nung and monk meal meeting face to face. In that grass, that clearing field there's a field that's out beyond ideas of right doing and wrongdoing. I'll meet you there.
So again, finally, what is what is the original face? Not true face doesn't matter. What is the original face a monk male. That's the nub. That's the the very crux of the koan. And the student has to demonstrate her his understanding of that this mug meal was all at once enlightened. His whole body was dripping with sweat. This was no this was no grazing experience of kensho deep tears flowing down his face, his face besides these secret words, he said it meaning is there anything else deeper still? It's way nine says what has been revealed to you is not secret. Zen has been called an open secret. It's right here. It's right here. Right there. He went in says if you look into your true self, your own true self what a secret is right there.
So it wasn't, it wasn't until meal had stopped. But he realized his original face. It see how, until then, what a what a what a handicap. It was in him to be on this crusade. It's it's grasping the attachment to enlightenment, the thought of enlightenment. This is a big hindrance.
At the workshop, our online online workshop yesterday someone asked about this old dichotomy between those who say, there's no need to come to enlightenment because we're already enlightened, all of us are enlightened between that and the other school, the rinzai School it says yes, of course, we're all originally enlightened. But if you just sit back, sort of basking in that idea of your original enlightenment, then you then you will not be able to have the greatest experience any human being can have. So get to work. Get to work for your sake, and for the sake of all beings, and awaken to your original enlightenment.
And then the rest of the koan is less important, the rest of the case. But let's just run through it. The way nung says, what has been revealed to you is not secret. If you look into your own true self, what a secret is right there. And then Meo says, the white trained under the fifth ancestor with the other monks, I could not awaken to my true self. Now, thanks to your instruction. I am like one who has drunk water and actually knows for himself whether it's cold or warm, in other words, the direct experience of awakening, not reading about it, not wishing for it, not thinking about grasping at it, but experiencing it. So you see here, Meo is clearly just overwhelmed with gratitude. And he is sort of indirectly suggesting that his previous teacher, the fifth ancestor, well, hadn't helped him close the deal. But why not, won't, won't have that he won't, I can't let that go. He says, We both have the fifth ancestor for our teacher. Here again, there's so many points in the story in this koan in the story, that are germane to Zen practice. Here, I would say, it's all a matter of the, the route, it's a matter of dependent co arising, this is a central central core teaching of the Dharma is that it's not, it's not just the ability or lack of ability of the teacher. It's not just the ability or lack of ability, or the ability or inability of the student, but it's that teacher and that student coming together at that time, that determines what the outcome
be sure that plenty of other monks at that monastery have the fifth ancestor had come to enlightenment under him. But there was something that hadn't yet ripened in in Meo that finally did. Under the way down the sixth patriarch.
Again, this is finally coming. coming to a stop this meal coming to a stop, they're looking down at the robe and the bowl, reaching down, no longer running, chasing, grasping,
transit, the great Tao is said, to the mind, that is still the universe surrenders.
So long as we are holding in our mind this idea of enlightenment, so long as we are clinging to that, we will not be able to experience it. And that's the whole point of the particular practice we're working on. Whether it's a koan, or the breath, whatever it is, it's all to help us get unshackled from this idea of enlightenment as something out there. Because, indeed, from the very beginning, we've all been enlightened.
The commentary very quickly, I know we're running out of time. Move on says that the sixth patriarch did something extraordinary. He is like a kindly grandmother who peels a fresh lychee. Let's make it an orange zone more common. Here in North America. He's like a kindly grandmother who appeals a fresh orange removes all the seeds, and puts it into your mouth so that you need only swallow it. He just laid it out there literally laid out not just the row in the ball, that's the least of it. But he just saw that Neil through his his days and days of exertion, climbing that mountain, and itself as a symbol that he was ready. He, what does that phrase, a fool of who pursues his folly long enough will become wise. And then the verse move on says, you cannot describe it. You cannot picture it. You can never praise it fully stop all your groping and maneuvering, there's nowhere to hide your true self.
When the world is annihilated, it remains indestructible. That brings us to the end of our time. We'll stop now and recite the four vows