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Thread: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

  1. #1

    3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    Hi,

    Let'me tell ya my interpretation of what's goin' on here.

    A key is that Master Shitou is also traditionally said to be the author of the famous chant known as the Sandokai, "The Identity of Relative and Absolute" (chanted at all Soto temples, and which we also chant during our monthly Treeleaf Zazenkai). The very title of that chant makes the point ... the "relative stuff" of this world and "the absolute" beyond all such divisions/categories are not two. To quote the Heart Sutra, "Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is precisely form." Other lines, found toward the end of this week's talk by Master Keizan, emphasize this ... such as "The round mirror reflects clearly and the wonderful forms of the myriad things appear in it spontaneously" ... "'Mind,' 'Buddha' 'beings,' 'bodhi' 'defilement' -- the words are different but the substance is the same." etc.

    Now, it is wrong ... like most folks in life ... to be a prisoner of the "ordinary, messy stuff" of the world, not able to see through the stuff and beyond it, and to not taste life from the "absolute" vantage point. That is to be a deluded being.

    HOWEVER, there is also the mistake of tasting a bit of the absolute (maybe, for example, as an experience of Kensho) and thinking that THAT's IT! ... THAT's ENLIGHTENMENT!! ... DONE! This view is sometimes called by names like "STUCK IN EMPTINESS". What is missing is the ability to "bring it back to earth", see "ordinary life" as just THAT ... that the "stuff of life" IS precisely Emptiness when realized as such, and Emptiness is the dance of the "stuff of life."

    The chant of Sandokai cautions against -both- forms of ignorance when it says ...

    To be attached to things is illusion. But to encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment either.

    Okay, so ... at the beginning of this chapter, Sekitou is still a young student, and he comes to Master Qingyuan. However, Sekitou speaks too much only from the "Absolute", the perspective that "the 'stuff' of the world is just a mirage, an illusion". He says, for example, that the Truth (represented by the master's Hossu ... a very tangible thing, a kind of ritual stick held in the Master's hand) ... is not really there, not in China nor in India or anywhere, and is beyond all such limiting categories as "here and there". In fact, even India and China don't really exist, and are empty ... and so nobody can go there (everybody is really a dream too). It cannot be expressed in words either, and there is no one ... no you and me ... to express the inexpressable anyway.

    Qingyuan then criticizes this by saying such things like "you don't really get what the Buddha was teaching in India ... and let me show you how much of a "dream" this Hossu is!" ... whereupon Qingyuan cracked Sekitou slightly over the head with the so-called "not there" Hossu, showing Sekitou that it is not quite the "illusion" that Sekitou believed.

    In this way, Sekitou really really really got the point on the "identity of relative and absolute" ... as a small bruise on his head! :shock:

    Cook from 178
    Hixon from 175 (Hixon ... Keizan too ... sometimes goes over the top with his florid descriptions and extreme adjectives ... but he is just trying to convey how wonderful these realizations are.)

  2. #2

    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    Here is a picture of a "Hossu" by the way ... originally a tool to gently chase away flies on a hot day like a horse's tail (Buddhists avoid swatting flies! 8) ) ... but which became a tangible symbol in a Zen Master's hands for "shooing away ignorance" ... swatting ignorance when necessary!


  3. #3

    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi,

    Let'me tell ya my interpretation of what's goin' on here.

    A key is that Master Shitou is also traditionally said to be the author of the famous chant known as the Sandokai, "The Identity of Relative and Absolute" (chanted at all Soto temples, and which we also chant during our monthly Treeleaf Zazenkai). The very title of that chant makes the point ... the "relative stuff" of this world and "the absolute" beyond all such divisions/categories are not two. To quote the Heart Sutra, "Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is precisely form." Other lines, found toward the end of this week's talk by Master Keizan, emphasize this ... such as "The round mirror reflects clearly and the wonderful forms of the myriad things appear in it spontaneously" ... "'Mind,' 'Buddha' 'beings,' 'bodhi' 'defilement' -- the words are different but the substance is the same." etc.

    Now, it is wrong ... like most folks in life ... to be a prisoner of the "ordinary, messy stuff" of the world, not able to see through the stuff and beyond it, and to not taste life from the "absolute" vantage point. That is to be a deluded being.

    HOWEVER, there is also the mistake of tasting a bit of the absolute (maybe, for example, as an experience of Kensho) and thinking that THAT's IT! ... THAT's ENLIGHTENMENT!! ... DONE! This view is sometimes called by names like "STUCK IN EMPTINESS". What is missing is the ability to "bring it back to earth", see "ordinary life" as just THAT ... that the "stuff of life" IS precisely Emptiness when realized as such, and Emptiness is the dance of the "stuff of life."

    The chant of Sandokai cautions against -both- forms of ignorance when it says ...

    To be attached to things is illusion. But to encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment either.

    Okay, so ... at the beginning of this chapter, Sekitou is still a young student, and he comes to Master Qingyuan. However, Sekitou speaks too much only from the "Absolute", the perspective that "the 'stuff' of the world is just a mirage, an illusion". He says, for example, that the Truth (represented by the master's Hossu ... a very tangible thing, a kind of ritual stick held in the Master's hand) ... is not really there, not in China nor in India or anywhere, and is beyond all such limiting categories as "here and there". In fact, even India and China don't really exist, and are empty ... and so nobody can go there (everybody is really a dream too). It cannot be expressed in words either, and there is no one ... no you and me ... to express the inexpressable anyway.

    Qingyuan then criticizes this by saying such things like "you don't really get what the Buddha was teaching in India ... and let me show you how much of a "dream" this Hossu is!" ... whereupon Qingyuan cracked Sekitou slightly over the head with the so-called "not there" Hossu, showing Sekitou that it is not quite the "illusion" that Sekitou believed.

    In this way, Sekitou really really really got the point on the "identity of relative and absolute" ... as a small bruise on his head! :shock:

    Cook from 178
    Hixon from 175 (Hixon ... Keizan too ... sometimes goes over the top with his florid descriptions and extreme adjectives ... but he is just trying to convey how wonderful these realizations are.)
    Hi Jundo,
    I don't have words to improve on this post. So let me say, this is my story and I'm sticking to it. Gassho, Shogen ( The clouds in front of your Toolbelt teaching are starting to pass by)

  4. #4

    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    Hiya
    Thank you Jundo!
    A very good reminder that sticking to either or is to miss the whole.
    As I read these I try to put my self in each set of proverbial shoes. Im afraid I may have gotten a whack too in Shitou's shoes

    Gassho
    Shohei

  5. #5

    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    I have to confess that I am guilt of wearing those shoes too, but they were always too big for my feet. I ended up tripping on my own ankles and flatting my face against the ground. Relative? Absolute? The hell if I know.

    Gassho.Gassho.Gassho.

    Sunyata

  6. #6

    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    It was fantastic for me to find again this story, because these types of stories are what first attracted me to Zen. I was used to a very pompous, idealist and not-of-this-world type of spirituality, of heavenly realms and so on, so I had the impression that spirituality was not my cup of tea. Then it struck me deep, made me laugh and made me think when I read how zen masters were able to move from complex analysis of emptiness to very earthly things like pinching other people noses, htting them with a stick, burning wooden Buddha statues to get some heat in the winter, and many more.
    And of course, I have my idealist and pompous days too, so I'm glad to know that someone around this sangha will be able to hit me with a stick.

    Gassho

    Rimon

  7. #7

    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    Hi!
    I've nothing to add to what has been said... I just want to share a sentence in Cook's translation.
    This is a kind of remembering we can find in a lot of our ancestor's writings and he it also make me think about the Sandokai:
    "...This body is Buddha,Mind, Buddha, beings, bodhi, defilement - the words are different but the substance is the same. You must realize that the substance of your own mind is beyond annihilation and eternity, and its nature is beyond purity and impurity. Deep and complete, it is the same in sages and ordinary people. ..."

    Makes me think about the fact that in most text I've read about old Chan masters they all first talk about the "Buddha mind" (Bodhidharma, Huineng, ...) and after that some masters talk a bit more about the body as Buddha's body, and of course about the non-attachment to the body-mind...

    Well, my silly "investigating mind" is always trying to "see and know"... I'd better just enjoy the text and then drop it all--> back to the cushion.

    gassho,
    Jinyu

  8. #8
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    I have been reading the 'Identity of Relative and Absolute' over and over and wondered why I hadn't looked at it in more depth before..wack, wack.

  9. #9
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    Ok, so I read the opening dialog and think, "Got it, and the first time, too!" Then I read the rest and went, "Oops, missed it. But now I got it." Then I read Jundo's post and went, "Oops, missed it again." But now I really do get it... I think.

    A lot of times in zen it doesn't seem to matter what you say because it's wrong, or so it seems. (Jundo does this with us in the forum. Someone will say "zen is this!" and Jundo will respond "Nope, it's the other." And then someone will say "zen is the other," to which Jundo responds, "nope, it's this." And we all go, " :? :shock: :x ") But I am beginning to figure out that it's wrong only if it comes from one place (relative) or the other (absolute), and it's "right" only when it comes from emptiness, neither place. It didn't matter what Shitou said because it was all coming from a place instead of emptiness. Of course, Jundo will now respond to this and tell me I am wrong :lol:

    I do like the image of the whisk as neither relative nor absolute because it is both absolutely hard and relatively soft.

  10. #10

    Re: 3/4 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: to Shitou

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Ok, so I read the opening dialog and think, "Got it, and the first time, too!" Then I read the rest and went, "Oops, missed it. But now I got it." Then I read Jundo's post and went, "Oops, missed it again." But now I really do get it... I think.

    A lot of times in zen it doesn't seem to matter what you say because it's wrong, or so it seems. (Jundo does this with us in the forum. Someone will say "zen is this!" and Jundo will respond "Nope, it's the other." And then someone will say "zen is the other," to which Jundo responds, "nope, it's this." And we all go, " :? :shock: :x ") But I am beginning to figure out that it's wrong only if it comes from one place (relative) or the other (absolute), and it's "right" only when it comes from emptiness, neither place. It didn't matter what Shitou said because it was all coming from a place instead of emptiness. Of course, Jundo will now respond to this and tell me I am wrong :lol:

    I do like the image of the whisk as neither relative nor absolute because it is both absolutely hard and relatively soft.
    Hi Al (Jigen)
    From your post it seems we are getting very close to the middle. Perhaps, " The Middle Way" Gassho Shogen

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