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Lohan from Nan Hua Si 

Meeting Miao Fang

My Twenty-First Year (1566-7)

In the year after the Chan meeting, on the twenty-eighth day of the second month, disaster struck Bao En Temple. During a violent thunderstorm one afternoon, at five o’clock, the stupa was hit by lightning and the shrine caught fire. By seven o’clock the whole place had burned down. In just two hours, one hundred and forty structures—rooms, halls, painted corridors—were reduced to ashes.

The Emperor held the monastery’s administrators accountable for the loss, and an order was given to the civilian authorities to arrest the new young abbot and eighteen senior monks. They were carted off to jail some twenty Chinese miles away. Most of the remaining monks, not wishing to join them and having no place to stay anyway, quickly fled. The few monks who elected to stay on at the ruins were so distraught they didn’t know what to do. They had lost their home and their leaders.

Remembering the old abbot’s good opinion of me and how he had instructed that I should be consulted in administrative matters, I sought to be worthy of his trust and began immediately to try to get things organized. Prisoners depend on family and friends for their meals, and so I gave first priority to getting food to the abbot and the senior monks. Everyday, for three straight months, we made up a basket of salted vegetables which I then carried to the jail. Other monks and friends also helped; and between our combined efforts, the abbot and monks were able to endure their imprisonment. After those three months, they were finally released.

But the young abbot, no doubt broken by the experience, soon died, leaving no one to look after the temple and the community.

When the old abbot had died, he left no money. Even his funeral expenses had to be paid with borrowed funds. I therefore gave second priority to paying off the temple’s old, outstanding debts. After all, if we didn’t pay the creditors they’d seize the temple’s lands and remaining property and that would be the end of this religious community. Between our hard work and the generosity of others, I was able to raise enough money to pay the old debts and to support, for a while at least, the monks who remained in residence.

Xue Lang, my Dharma brother and dear friend, and I decided to rebuild Bao En Temple. Since we had no money, this did not promise to be an easy task. We also knew that, more than money, our plan would require patience, effort, wisdom and integrity; and so, we vowed to remain faithful to the Dharma as we awaited the proper opportunity to begin.

I then decided to make a pilgrimage. The first part of it began that winter when I went to Tian Jie Temple and listened to Master Wu Ji lecture on The Lotus Sutra.

I thought that for the next leg of my journey I should have a companion, so I searched my companions at Tian Jie Temple for one suitable for the trip. I found no one.

Then one day it occurred to me that the latrines were always particularly clean. Only an extraordinary man can perform such a disagreeable task consistently well. I learned the identity of the sanitation monk and went to call on him, but, claiming illness, he declined to see me. This was a bit mysterious since I could see that every morning the latrines had been meticulously cleaned. When was he working?

One night I purposely stayed up and went to the latrines to watch the cleaning operation. I spied in vain. The toilets had already been scrubbed. Since everything was dry I supposed that they had been cleaned earlier, probably during the evening meditation session.

Before I could solve the mystery, the sanitation monk ceased working in the latrine. The toilets became filthy. I inquired of the administrator the whereabouts of the monk, and he told me that he was very ill and had been put to bed in the guest room. I went immediately to see him and found him in terrible condition, jaundiced and dyspeptic. I asked him how he was and he answered, “My health isn’t worth much even when it’s good. When it’s bad, it’s really awful.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well,” he confided, “good health or bad, my appetite remains intact so that when I see and smell food, I really want to eat. But when I’m in bad health, my body can’t tolerate the food, as you can see.”

I thought sweet cakes might be easier for him to digest so I bought him some. I asked him his name and he replied, “Miao Feng. I’m a native of Fuzhou.”

I invited him to accompany me on my journey and gave him time to think about my proposal, but a few days later he was gone without a word. I supposed that he didn’t like being disturbed by me. I regretted his departure.

The Twenty-second Year (1567-8)

My journey put off a while longer, I returned to attend to the affairs of Bao En Temple. At my recommendation, Master Yun Gu became abbot of Bao En. We hoped he would increase the dwindling community.

The debt problem was not so easily solved. I had borrowed one thousand gold coins to defray the expenses of partial restoration and, of course, for maintaining the sangha. The sangha could not pay the debt and I had to arrange to have its repayment spread out over a three-year period.

The civil authorities had ordered the temple to open a free school. Since I was asked to teach, I had to re-study classical literature and become a scholar again. We had more than one hundred fifty students.

The Twenty-third, fourth, and fifth Years (1568-71)

With the school and faculty finally organized at Bao En, I was able to earn money teaching at other monastery schools. I taught at Gao Zuo Temple for one year and at Jin Shan monastery for two.

The Twenty-sixth Year (1571-72)

I returned to Bao En Temple and, being able to pay off all the remaining debts, was at last able to make my long awaited pilgrimage. Xue Lang and I set out for Lu Shan Mountain.

When we reached Nan Kang we heard that tigers were prowling about and that it wasn’t safe to go up the mountain. This seemed like a good reason to press on to Ji An.

At Ji An we went to Zing Yuan where we found a temple in ruins. The monks who still resided there had let their hair grow. Once again I was seized with desire to rebuild a temple. Feeling like an expert now, I immediately spoke to the authorities, gained their approval, selected about forty young, strong monks, shaved their heads, and instructed them in the hard work of temple restoration. By the summer, I was able to leave Qing Yuan in capable hands.

That winter, in the eleventh month, I decided to continue my pilgrimage. I got my rice bowl ready and announced that I was heading north. Xue Lang protested. It made no sense to him to go north in winter. But that, I told him, was the whole point. Were I to go southeast to the beautiful provinces that he suggested, I’d be going on a vacation, not a pilgrimage. I said to him, “Look, comfortable living soon becomes a bad habit. Without something to struggle against, you get lazy.” He still didn’t see the merits of going ‘the hard way,’ but I knew that I needed adversity to overcome if I was ever going to gain real control of my mind. So I picked up my bowl and left.

The Twenty-seventh Year (1572-3)

I couldn’t get any farther than Yang Zhou. A heavy snowfall had prevented me from going on. Sick and tired, I went into the marketplace to beg, but no matter how pitiably I begged, nobody would give me anything. The other mendicant monks who were also stuck there fared no better. What was wrong with the people of Yang Zhou? I thought about this long and hard. Then an answer occurred to me. I took all the money I had left and, gathering the monks together, I treated all of them to dinner at a restaurant. It was a way of ‘priming the pump.’ If we wanted to tap the town’s prosperity, we had to invest a little in it. Now, ‘speaking their language,’ we were shown more generosity by the townspeople when we begged. I was rather proud of myself for having figured out this strategy. It was a simple solution but it was more forceful than a thousand temple bells.

My begging bowl and my robe! They were all I needed. Having solved the food problem, I owed my independence to my warm robe. In this garment’s honor, I composed the following poem:

    You wrap around and shape yourself to suit me,
    Imprisoning my heart.
    I don’t want to escape.
    Inside you, I’ve got everything I need.
    Do you know how beautiful you are?
    Your graceful sleeves flutter in the breeze
    Like a wild swan’s wings.
    And when I let you hang unbound
    And the wind comes and fills you,
    You’re a billowing cloud
    That lifts me up to sport with dragons.
    Contained in you, I’m free.
    I can climb cold mountains and linger at the summit.
    Silk would send me down. Not you.
    You say, “Stay and make yourself at home!”
    A warm cabin in the drifting snows.

Mid-year, in the seventh month, I entered Beijing where I could find neither food nor lodging. All day I searched in vain, and finally, in the evening, I was given a little meal at a tea shop in Tai Ping and permission to spend the night at Yi Jiao Temple at He Cao. By next morning an official, Wang Bo Yu, had learned of my arrival. He sent for me and, out of respect for his brother, Wang Zhong Yan, who was a member of Yi Jiao, permitted me to stay on at the monastery for another ten days.

After this visit, I called on Dharma Master Maha Zhong and followed him to Xi Shan Temple to listen to his talk on The Miao Zong Chao, a commentary on Amitabha Buddha’s Meditation Sutra. After the lecture, Dharma Master Maha Zhong invited me to stay for the winter and attend his lectures on The Lotus Sutra and The Vijnana-Matra. I was delighted to accept. I also asked the Master if he would be kind enough to instruct me in formal logic—in particular, the syllogism.

I was a little lonely, I suppose, and missed my old friends. Everywhere I went I was either hoping to meet up with Miao Feng or I was remembering Xue Lang whom I had left behind. I even wrote a poem about Xue Lang.

Then, in the eleventh month, Miao Feng suddenly arrived and called on me. His hair and beard were long and his clothing was coarse. True to his mysterious ways, he claimed to be a salt merchant when he asked to see me. When he entered my room, he asked, “Do you recognize me?”

It took me a moment until I recognized the eyes of the sanitation monk Tian Chi Temple. “I do, indeed,” I said.

“There’s been quite a change in my appearance!” he said.

I countered, “Yes, but your Original Face hasn’t changed at all.” We both laughed at this exchange and sat there a while, quiet and happy.

Miao Feng was staying at Long Hua Temple. When he visited me again the next day, we sat and talked for the entire evening. He explained that he had let his hair and beard grow because he had been living high on a mountain for a long time. At the foot of the mountain there was an old ruined temple which a benefactor, Prince Shan Yin, had decided to restore. The Prince had requested Miao Feng to come to Xi Shan Temple to collect The Tripitaka Buddhist scriptures for it. He asked me why I had come and I answered, “Why, to look for you, of course. . . and to see the capital.” I also told him that I was seeking advice from various masters on how I could best get control of my wandering thoughts.

As our night-long conversation ended, Miao Feng confided, “After we parted, I always thought about you. I was afraid that we’d never meet again. Now that we’re together again, I’ll gladly go with you to beg for food.” Then he added, “I’ll even guard you from dogs.”

“Sure,” I said smiling. It was daybreak.

My calls on various masters didn’t profit me much. I made obeisance to Master Pian Yong and prayed to him to show me a Chan practice. He responded by staring blankly at me.

I called on Master Shao Yan and begged the same of him. He replied by asking, “Where did you come from?”

I replied, “From the South.” “Do you remember the road that led you here?” “I didn’t bother much about it once I had traveled it,” I answered. “Just so you always keep moving . . . keep departing.” he said.

I bowed and stood there waiting for his guidance but he only said a few words about the transcendental doctrine. Then I took his advice and left. It would take years before I understood that by ‘always departing’ he meant that I shouldn’t become attached to any place . . . or any one.

The Twenty-eighth Year (1573-4)

In the first month, I went to Wu Tai Shan. I bought a copy of The Life Story of Qing Liang and visited the places mentioned in the text. I found Han Shan (Silly) Mountain so serene and strangely beautiful that I decided to appropriate its name for myself. The mountain inspired me to compose the following poem:

    This Silly Mountain doesn’t go around aping people,
    Playing the clown, society’s fool.
    It sits here alone, contented in solitude, perfect in peace.
    I should be so silly.

Because I couldn’t endure the snow season’s bitter cold, I returned to the capital. From there I proceeded eastward, all the way begging for food.

At Qian Xiang Gu (Thousand Statue Peak) I encountered a monk who was sitting silently in mediation. I didn’t disturb him with questions. I just stayed with him, collecting firewood, begging for food, and carrying water for us both. In this way the summer passed.

Official Wang kept tract of me. He sent me a letter saying that he feared I’d starve in the eastern suburbs. He wanted me to return. In autumn, I went, because Ou Zhen Bo of Ling Nan (Guangdong), who was one of the state’s most learned scholars, wished to see me as soon as possible. I had never met Ou Zhen Bo but I had corresponded with him a few years earlier.

The Twenty-ninth Year (1574-5)

In the spring of my twenty-ninth year I visited the capital’s Western Hill where the most eminent scholars, the two brothers Wang Feng Zhou and Wang Lin Zhou; Ou Zhen Bo of Ling Nan; and the two brothers, Wang Bo Yu and Wang Zhong Yan, were gathered.

Feeling very cocky, very full of myself, and spoiling for an intellectual fight, I went to visit Wang Feng Zhou. I assumed that because I was young he’d think he could handle me easily. I sat there smugly letting him wait on me as though I were an honored guest and he privileged to be my host. Then, when he was reckless enough to attempt to teach me a little poetry, I stared at him and got up and left without a word.

Not surprisingly, he wasn’t pleased by my conduct and told his younger brother, Wang Lin Zhou, about the incident. The next day, Wang Lin Zhou came to see me.

“Last night,” he said, “my brother had his Eye put out.” “Do you have that Eye?” I asked.

“I think I have,” he said graciously, “now that I have met you.” We both laughed heartily and talked into the night.

When he returned to his brother he was kind enough to say, “Brother, you lost to a modern-day Vimalakirti.” He even sent me a poem he wrote about me.

His praise fed my arrogance and puffed me up even more. One day, Wang Zhong Yan, with whom I was staying, watched me as I read a volume of the Zuo Chuan. He said to me, “You’re talented and, since you have literary inclinations, you ought to take up writing as a career. You’ll make a name for yourself. My brother is an authority on contemporary literature. He can help you.”

Humble as ever, I sneered and spat, saying, “I’m waiting for the time when your older brother comes to me on his knees begging me to tell him why Bodhidharma came from the West.”

The younger Wang wasn’t too happy with my attitude. He related our conversation to his brother who more or less said, “If this guy’s talents are as big as his mouth, he’ll definitely become successor to Da Wei and Zhong Feng.” Then he added, “Literature may not be good enough for him, but until he gets control of his mind, he won’t find anything better.”

One day the older Wang took a fan on which I had written the lines,

    Time is one wing of a gnat. Space is the other.
    The universe is the hair of a horse.

He showed the fan to his younger brother. “These,” he said with kind approval, “are not the lines of a fatuous literary monk.”

On one occasion a town official invited Miao Feng and me to a vegetarian banquet. He was worried about the decline of our Chan sect. “Your knowledge and bearing should bring you great success, but not of course if you keep wandering around.”

I told him I wanted to learn from all the different enlightened masters. Not only was I seeking enlightenment but I needed help in stopping my disturbing thoughts. “I’m not just a wanderer, even though,” I conceded, “I am getting ready to leave soon.”

“That’s all right,” he said, “but I wish I could think of someone to direct you to, someone who could be your teacher. I also don’t like to think of you going off alone, and without Miao Feng you’ll have no friend to travel with.”

I corrected him. “Miao Feng and I will be traveling together. Yes, long ago, when we first met, we agreed to be companions in our Chan practice. Then we were separated and after years of searching for each other we finally met here unexpectedly.”

“Well,” said the official happily, “this is wonderful news. If both of you travel together, I’ll be glad to help you with money.”

Glad to hear this, I counted on his support for the journey I expected to make with Miao Feng.

But then one day the official came to me telling me to hurry and come say goodbye to Miao Feng. Goodbye? Miao Feng hadn’t told me he was leaving! But evidently, he had received The Tripitaka he had originally come for, and so he simply decided to depart. I was hurt and felt betrayed and thought that I deserved better treatment than this.

The official tried to get me to hurry, but I refused, showing my indignation. “I see no reason to hurry,” I said coldly. Then the official looked me in the eye. “Look,” he said, “I know you want to be your own man, but this pride of yours is just too much to tolerate. Did the ancients ever get embarrassed by such trifles? No. Only their fame ever made them blush! But you! You have such a grand opinion of yourself yet you’re so easily defeated by small matters! I wish you glorious success in the Dharma, but I doubt that you will ever find it. Such pettiness!”

For the first time I saw my arrogance clearly. Ashamed, I thanked him for showing it to me. Then I ran to where Miao Geng was leaving. He was already in the cart. “Are you coming?” he asked. “You bet!” I answered, jumping into the cart without so much as a look back.

We delivered The Tripitaka and continued our pilgrimage. Then in the autumn, in the eighth month, we separated for a while so that Miao Feng could go ahead to attend to some matters while I took a detour across the Meng Jin River to reach the place where King Wu Wang reviewed his troops just before he attacked the Shang. It was a solemn occasion and I composed the following verse to console the spirits of the dead:

    Where kingdoms clashed and men and horses fell
    A stone marker reposes by the river’s edge.
    The emperor’s vow to reign ten thousand years
    Was written in the waters of the Huang He.

I also passed the site where the two brothers, Pai I and Shu Chi, had blocked the passage of King Wu Want’s cavalry and had warned the king, in vain, not to attack the Shang state. There I composed these lines:

    For peace they left their fortunes far behind.
    Here stand a temple and a cypress tree serene.
    The beauty of Shou Yong Mountain reflects
    The two who strove to block the path to war.

Next I visited Shao Lin Temple where First Patriarch Bodhidharma had stayed. I heard that Master Da Qian Run Zong had just taken up residence at Shao Lin Temple. I wanted to pay my respects to him but he wasn’t at home when I called. I moved on and visited the ancient citadel of Luoyang, the Sutra Burning Terrace, and White Horse Temple. Finally, I caught up with Miao Feng in He Dong. It was the ninth month and we stayed there together for the winter as guests of Prince Shan Yin.

We kept busy. Miao Feng and I, together with an official named Chen, undertook the task of carving wooden blocks for printing The Zhao Lun with commentary. The text dealt with such matters as the Doctrine of Immutability and the World-destroying Whirlwind, and I, unfortunately, couldn’t grasp these concepts no matter how I tried. Then I came to the section that contained a story about an enlightened Brahmin who went back to visit the home he had left as a child. Though the Brahmin’s hair was white and he had aged considerably, a neighbor was still able to recognize him. “You’re the man who used to live here,” he said. But the Brahmin smiled and explained that man was dead and that what the neighbor was seeing was merely his image. So! This is what it meant! When your illusory, constantly changing ego-self dies you can realize your one, true and permanent nature, your Immutable Buddha-Self! Only appearances can change. The underlying reality cannot change! I wanted my ego to die-back like that Brahmin’s. I wanted to take refuge in my Buddha Self. I got up and went into the temple and prostrated myself before the altar. Everything suddenly seemed so clear.

Then, when I got up and started to leave, I stopped on the temple steps and looked with amazement at the courtyard. A strong wind had started to blow, tearing leaves off all the trees. The air was filled with them! Yet, the leaves were motionless. They were just there, suspended in air. And all was so serene! Finally, I had perceived something with my Buddha Eye! So this was the whirlwind that destroys but does not move. And again I understood that the ego-mind continuously moves like a flow of air or water, but what it sees is actually stable—a matrix which all things pulse in and out of. Now I understood! My ego-mind had decided that a certain configuration of matter was a leaf, and then my ego-mind had decided to string together a series of images and to call this series movement: blowing leaves. In reality, there was no I standing there on the steps. There were no steps. There was neither wind nor blowing leaf. My ego-mind put arbitrary boundaries on matter and time, and gave things name and form. But reality, perceived directly without my intervening ego-mind, was nameless and formless and timeless!

Well! This was no small breakthrough! I suddenly desired to urinate. And again, watching my urine stream out, everything stopped. Experience the “eternal moment,” I saw with my Buddha Eye. Now I knew. Nothing is born and nothing can die. Everything simply “is.”

I wrote the following lines to commemorate the event:

    Birth and Death. Day and Night.
    Running water, stagnant pool.
    Bud and fading flower.
    Can I find the point at which they change
    From one into the other?
    Can my nostrils turn upwards?

The next day Miao Feng saw that I was different. “What have we here?” he said joyfully.

I answered, “Last night the statue of my mind and the statue of my body tried to go for a swim. If they made it into the water, I’m sure they drowned.”

Miao Feng laughed hard. “Fortune has smiled on you,” he said. “At last you can afford mountain life.”

Soon after this, Prince Shan Yin invited Chan Master Fa Guang to visit us. I had long admired him and looked forward to hearing him teach. When we talked I found that our opinions were quite similar. I asked for his guidance in my practice and he told me that I should go beyond the dualities of sacred and profane or saintly and worldly, and that I should experience higher states of consciousness, not just learn about them. I knew what he meant and thought his voice was a heavenly drum. How different the sound an enlightened man makes! How different from the rattle of common men! I had great respect for him and showed it.

Perhaps to bring me back to reality, one day he picked up a poem of mine and read it. “How do you manage to write such beautiful verses?” he said. Then he laughed and said, “Yes . . . they’re beautiful, but you haven’t seen them through the right gate . . . the “other” gate.” Then he challenged me, “No doubt your “other” gate is not yet opened.

I accepted the challenge. “Is your ‘other’ gate opened?” “I’ve spent thirty years seizing dragons and catching tigers and Ohhh,” he whined, feigning fear, “here comes a rabbit running out of the grass!”

“Venerable Sir,” said I, “you don’t look like a man who’s ever seized a dragon or caught a tiger.

Would you even know them if you saw them?”

At this he raised his staff, intending to hit me with it, but I grabbed it with one hand and with the other tugged on his beard. “You talk of a rabbit!” I said, “Why, it’s only a hopping toad!”

Satisfied, he laughed and left.

On another occasion he said to me, “You don’t have to go elsewhere. Let’s stay here together and spend our lives practicing Chan.” It was quite a compliment.

Chan Master Fa Guang had a peculiar habit, a kind of nervous tic. Whenever he was alone, he’d hum and talk and gesticulate as if he were communicating with someone. I approached him about the problem. “I see that you are the equal of ancient masters both in knowledge of the Dharma and in debating skills, but why do you act so strangely as if your mind is disordered?”

“This is my Chan sickness,” he explained. “When I achieved my first awakening, words flowed out of me incessantly. I couldn’t stop them. Yes, this is my Chan disease.”

“Could this malady ever have been prevented?

“Yes. If when it began a learned master had beaten me unconscious, then, when I awoke my mind would have been clear. Unfortunately, I did not have a learned master handy when the disease struck.”

I didn’t know if he was serious or not.

Knowing that I was leaving for Five Peak Mountain in the first month of the next year, he wrote a poem for me.

    A lion learns to see by riding clouds
    The cave-bound dragon only needs to rest.
“Do you know what this means?” he asked.

“Before I can soar in pure transcendental wisdom, I must allow the dragon in my mind to rest.” It was my old problem.

“But be careful,” he said. “I don’t want you to try to tame a dead snake.”

I was wrong when I thought that our Chan sect no longer had any great masters. Fa Guang ranked with the best.

Prince Shan Yin, when learning that my parents were still living, offered me two hundred gold coins for their support. I knew they didn’t need the money, and so I asked that he give it instead to Master Fa Guang because I did not want to be in great indebtedness.

The Thirtieth Year (1575-6)

In the first month of this year Miao Feng and I left He Dong and headed to Five Peak Mountain, taking the route through Ping Yang, Miao Feng’s hometown. We had a solemn task to perform. Years before, when Miao Feng was still a child, his parents had died during a severe famine and, owing to the hard times, had been buried without proper coffins.

With the help of some local officials Miao Feng selected a high, dry gravesite and reinterred his parents, marking the site with an inscribed tombstone. His family’s name was Hsu and he was a descendent of Hsu Chu who gained prominence during the Chun Qiu dynasty.

When Prefect Hu Shun An learned that I was staying outside Ping Yang, he sent word asking to meet with me, but I was busy preparing to leave for Five Peak Mountain and had to send him my regrets. He responded by sending me travel passes with which I could hire a cart and men on the trip. This, too, I had to decline. I knew he’d understand when I explained that my faithful straw sandals were still doing their job.

When we had gotten as far as Ling Shi, Prefect Hu Shun An caught up with us and we were finally able to spend a few days together. Later he sent men to accompany us all the way to Five Peak Mountain.

On the fifth day of the second month, we encamped at Ta Yuan Temple, and by the third day of the third month, we were able to reach North Peak’s Dragon Gate Temple. Abbot Master Da Fang permitted us to occupy an old hut that was situated high among the snowdrifts. And there, surrounded by the beautiful, snow-white scenery, I experienced a heavenly vision and my body and mind were filled with delight as I entered a Paradise of Bliss.

A few days later, when Miao Feng left to visit Ye Tai, I was able to sit alone in deep and silent meditation. I was soon so absorbed in meditation that if someone had roused me and showed me a Chinese character, I wouldn’t have recognized it.

When we first arrived at the hut, the noise of the roaring wind and running water used to disturb me. Since it didn’t seem to bother Miao Feng, I asked him for an explanation. He said, “The disturbance you feel is created within your own mind. You have grasped the sound and interpreted it as noise. You should listen without judgment, concentrating on the act of merely hearing so that no thoughts of any kind can arise in your mind. The ancients said that whoever hears without grasping, that is, whoever can listen to sounds without thinking, will soon attain the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s All Pervading Wisdom.”

Hoping to master this technique, I went to a wooden bridge every day and tried to listen to the water without thinking about it or anything else. At first, all I could hear was noise. My mind kept thinking. But after a little practice, my mind began to settle down. Then, one day, when my thoughts had ceased to surge like the water, I became so immersed in the sound that I actually forgot myself. The noise and my existence were gone. Serenity enveloped my mind. After that, whenever I heard a sound that previously would have annoyed me, all I had to do was concentrate on that sound without mentally grasping it, and I would be lulled into the same serene state.

Everyday I cooked rice and ate it with wild vegetables and porridge. Then, after the meal, I’d take a nice walk. But one day, while I was walking, I happened to stop and stand still, and in that blissful moment, I entered samadhi. Soon I ceased to be aware of anything except a great brightness, round and full, clean and still like a huge round mirror. Mountains, rivers, and the great earth, itself, appeared in the mirror. When I regained consciousness, I returned to the hut and noticed that the rice cooker was covered with dust. How long had I been in samadhi? I couldn’t guess. I was living alone at the time, and had no one to help me gauge the duration of this enlightenment experience.

My Chan understanding had deepened. All my previous doubts had vanished and my mind was wonderfully clear. Then, in the lingering afterglow of the great brightness, I composed these lines:

    When the mind keeps tumbling
    How can vision be anything but blurred?
    Stop the mind even for a moment
    And all becomes transparently clear!
    The moving mind is polishing mud bricks.
    In stillness find the mirror!

That summer Xue Lang came to visit me. He lasted only two nights in the hut. He left, expressing sympathy for me over my miserable living quarters. I got busy and built myself a sturdy cabin for the winter.

back   page 5 of 12   next page
Acknowledgments   ~   Introduction
Early Training   ~   Becoming a Monk
Meeting Miao Fang   ~   Samadhi
One Bright True Mind   ~   "Purify Your Mind"
The Court   ~   Song of the Placard Carrier
The Last Year   ~   Maxims of Master Han Shan
Last modified: July 11, 2004
This work courtesy of Grandmaster Jy Din Shakya
Published by the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun, 1998