Years prior to becoming the fifteenth Zen patriarch, the Venerable Kanadeva called upon his future teacher, the Great Nagarjuna, asking to become his student. Nagarjuna sensed that Kunadeva was someone of great Wisdom. Thus, to test Kanadeva, Nargarjuna placed a bowl of clear water placed before the visitor. Kanadeva thereupon produced a needle from his robes and threw the needle into the bowl of water, presenting it to Nagarjuna. They met each other and joyfully realized that they were of like minds. Nargarjuna accepted Kanadeva as his student, and eventually he became Nagarjuna's Dharma Successor.
Master Dogen might have phrased it like this ...
What does all that mean? Such turning phrases can never be understood at all by mental consideration or intellectual distinction alone. But a moment of Zazen, and the needle's point swallows a the whole sea
We see in the past that those who transcended the ordinary and transcended the sacred and those who died while sitting or died while standing, relied totally on this power. Moreover, changing of the moment through the action of a finger, a [flag]pole, a needle, or a wooden clapper; and exact experience of the state through the manifestation of a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout, can never be understood by thinking and discrimination. How could they be known through mystical powers or practice and experience? They may be dignified behavior beyond sound and form. How could they be anything other than criteria that precede knowing and seeing? [Nishijima]
In surveying the past, we find that transcendence of both mundane and sacred and dying while either sitting or standing have all depended entirely on the power of zazen. In addition, triggering awakening with a finger, a banner, a needle, or a mallet, and effecting realization with a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout-these cannot be understood by discriminative thinking; much less can they be known through the practice of supernatural power. They must represent conduct beyond seeing and hearing. Are they not a standard prior to knowledge and views? [SZTP]
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