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Grand Master Xu (Hsu) Yun Chapter 12: Mo Shan

Many women have excelled in the practice of Chan. Many have attained mastery and some of these have, in fact, succeeded where eminent male masters have failed.

Take the case of Master Mo Shan. In the habit of many masters, Mo Shan took her name from the mountain on which her monastery was situated. She became quite famous for the depth of her understanding of Chan and her ability to lead students to enlightenment.

The monk Quan Xi, who would later become Chan Master Quan Xi, had heard about the success of her methods; and after having spent a few years with none other than Master Lin Ji - years in which he learned much but was not delivered to enlightenment, Quan Xi decided to visit Mo Shan to see if her methods could help him.

I suppose that Quan Xi had fallen victim to the kind of pride that infects many students of great masters. They think that it is better to be an unenlightened disciple of a famous master than it is to be an enlightened disciple of an unknown one. Some feel the same way about gender. They suppose that an unenlightened male student is superior to an enlightened female master. You could call this Chan Machismo.

At any rate, student monk Quan Xi showed up at Mo Shan's monastery with a chip on his shoulder. He was cavalier and condescending and very mindful that he was a superior male Chan practitioner. He didn't rear up and beat his chest and bellow in the manner of male apes, but he came close to it.

Quan Xi entered the hall just as Mo Shan was taking her customary high seat of authority. He should have kowtowed to her as a supplicant and begged her to take him on as a student; but he just couldn't humble himself before a woman.

Mo Shan studied him for a moment, then she called to an attendant, "Is this fellow a sightseer or a student applicant?"

Quan Xi spoke up: "I am not a tourist. I am a follower of the Buddha Dharma."

"Ah," said Mo Shan, trying to look surprised. "You follow the Dharma! Tell me, how did you get here?"

"I walked in, from the main road."

"Did you think you left the Dharma back there on the road, that it couldn't be followed here or found here?"

Quan Xi didn't know what to say. He made a halfway sort of kneeling obeisance, more to cover his confusion than to show his respect.

Mo Shan was hardly satisfied by this compromised arrogance. "The Dharmakaya doesn't have boundaries that you can draw to suit your conceits," she said. "As the Dharmakaya is everywhere, so also are the rules, the Law, the Buddha Dharma. You shall conform your demeanor to accepted standards. You shall meet this condition."

Grudgingly Quan Xi kowtowed to Mo Shan. But when he rose, he couldn't resist asking, "What is the condition of the head of Mo Shan?" He was sparring with her verbally. What he wanted to know was whether or not she was enlightened.

Mo Shan smiled at his impertinence. "Which of the Buddha's disciples could see his usnisa, the sacred bulge at the top of his head?" She meant, of course, that it takes one to know one; and if Quan Xi could not see that she was enlightened it was because he, himself, was not.

"Where can I find the man who's in charge of Mo Shan?" he retorted condescendingly, with the double meaning "woman" and "mountain monastery".

"The One in charge of Mo Shan is neither man nor woman," she replied, giving him a little more rope.

"The person in charge ought to be powerful enough to complete the transformation," he challenged, his machismo again getting the better of his brain.

Mo Shan looked intently at Quan Xi. Slowly and gently she said, "The One in charge of Mo Shan is neither a ghost nor a demon nor a person. Into what should that One transform?"

Quan Xi suddenly got the message! For a moment he stood there horror struck by his own audacious ignorance. Then he dropped to his knees and really kowtowed to Mo Shan. This time he meant it.

He stayed on at Mo Shan Monastery for three years working as a gardener. Under Master Mo Shan's guidance, he attained enlightenment.

Years later, when he had become a master and had his own disciples, he used to tell them, "Enlightenment requires a full measure from the Great Dipper. From my spiritual father, Lin Ji, I received only half a ladle. It was my spiritual mother, Mo Shan, who gave me the other half; and from the time that she gave it to me, I have never been thirsty."


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[Introduction]  [Chapter 1]  [Chapter 2]  [Chapter 3]  [Chapter 4]  [Chapter 5]  [Chapter 6]
[Chapter 7]  [Chapter 8]  [Chapter 9]  [Chapter 10]  [Chapter 11]  [Chapter 12]  [Chapter 13]
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