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Ta Hui

China. Buddhist monk. (1089-1163 AD).


"One day while I was having supper in the abbot's quarters, I [was so absorbed in the koan that I] just held the chopsticks and forgot to eat. The master remarked to a bystander that my progress in Ch'an was as slow as the growth of the Huang-yang plant [Buxus mycrophylla, a plant which allegedly grows only one inch every year]. I then told him by a simile what position I was in. "I am like a dog who stands by a pot of boiling fat: he cannot lick it however badly he wants to, nor can he go away from it though he may wish to quit." The master said, "This is exactly the case. [The koan] is really a vajra cage and a seat of thorns to you." I then said to him. "When you were with your teacher, Wu-tsu, you asked him about the same koan, and what was his answer?" The master at first refused to say anything. But I insisted, saying, "When you asked him about it, you were not alone, but with an assembly. I am sure that there are people who know all about it." The master then said; "I ask him, 'To be and not to be - it is like a wisteria leaning on a tree. What is the meaning of it?' Wu-tsu replied, 'You cannot paint it, you cannot sketch it, however much you try.' I further said, 'What if the tree suddenly breaks down and the wisteria dies?' Wu-tsu said, 'You are following the words'."

"If you consider quietude right and commotion wrong, then this is seeking the real aspect by destroying the worldly aspect, seeking nirvana, the peace of extinction, apart from birth and death. When you like the quiet and hate the hubbub, this is just the time to apply effort. Suddenly when in the midst of hubbub, you topple the scene of quietude -- that power surpasses the (meditation) seat and cushion by a million billion times."

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