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.)