May 8, 1980 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Katagiri Roshi comments on the famous dharma encounter between Te Shan and Kuei Shan. Te Shan is a former academic master of the Diamond Sutra, now an earnest seeker of the Way, just trying to work through his arrogance issues and perhaps have some dumplings. Kuei Shan is the abbot the monastery, founder of one of the schools of Zen, who won’t accept any “dregs” in the bottom of the bottle of enlightenment. Their encounter “under the blue sky, in the bright sunlight” still leaves us pointing out this and that.
(Archive Issue: In the Online Audio Archive, Talk 1 and Talk 2 are listed in reverse order. Since Talk 1 must have come before Talk 2, I have switched the dates accordingly.)
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Case Four of Blue Cliff Record. The title is, “Te Shan Carrying His Bundle”.
Let me first read the case:
When Te Shan arrived at Kuei Shan, he carried his bundle with him into the teaching hall, where he crossed from east to west and from west to east. He looked around and said, “There is nothing, no one.” Then he went out.
Setchō (in Chinese, Hsueh Tou) added the comment, “Completely exposed.”
But when Te Shan got to the monastery gate, he said, “Still, I shouldn’t be so coarse.” So he reentered (the teaching hall) with full ceremony to meet (Kuei Shan). As Kuei Shan sat there, Te Shan held up his sitting mat and said, “Teacher!” Kuei Shan reached for his whisk, whereupon Te Shan shouted, shook out his sleeves, and left.
Setchō added the comment again, “Completely exposed.”
Te Shan turned his back on the teaching hall, put on his straw sandals, and departed. That evening Kuei Shan asked the head monk, “Where is that newcomer who just came?” The head monk answered, “At that time he turned his back on the teaching hall, put on his straw sandals, and departed.”
Kuei Shan said, “Hereafter that lad will go to the summit of a solitary peak, build himself a grass hut, and go on scolding the Buddhas and reviling the Patriarchs.”
Setchō added the comment, “He adds frost to snow.”
That is the whole story. Let me first talk simply about this story, and then I would like to read the pointer.
When Te Shan arrived at Kuei Shan…
Te Shan is one of the famous Zen Masters. You know there is a famous story between an old woman and Te Shan. Te Shan at that time was an outstanding teacher of the Diamond Sutra. He was commenting on the Diamond Sutra, so he had lots of time to give lectures everywhere in China in those days. And then at that time, he heard that Zen emphasizes that the mind itself is Buddha. But according to Diamond Sutra, mind itself is not Buddha, mind itself unattainable, because Diamond Sutra always emphasizes emptiness: the mind in the present is unattainable, mind in the past and future are unattainable. So from this point, Te Shan really doubted the Zen teaching that mind itself is Buddha.
So one day, he went to debate with a famous Zen Master. On his way, he rested for a while to take lunch, buying a dumpling, a rice cake at a small store pretty close to the monastery where the famous Zen Master lived.
So he stopped there and asked an old woman, “Would you give me the dumplings for my lunch.”
She said, “Yes, sir, but I would like to ask you, what are you carrying on your back?”
He said, “These are the commentaries I have written on the Diamond Sutra.”
The old woman said, “Oh, you are the master of the Diamond Sutra?”
He said, “Yes, I am the master of the Diamond Sutra. Why do you ask me about that?”
She said, “Well, because you have a big bundle on your back, that’s why I wondered what it is, and also I have a question. May I ask about the Diamond Sutra? If you answer my question, I will give you the dumplings. But if you don’t, I don’t want to give you the dumplings for your lunch.”
“Yes, I can answer to any kind of question you ask.”
So she said, “In Diamond Sutra, the mind in the present is unattainable, and the mind in the past is unattainable, the mind in the future is unattainable. What kind of mind are you going to have lunch with?” [Soft laughter.]
He was completely confused, because the Diamond Sutra didn’t answer his questions. So unfortunately, he couldn’t have lunch there.
But this teacher was very straightforward to the old woman, even though she was not a Zen priest or whatever they are where she was, so he asked her, “How did you learn Buddhism? Under whom did you learn?” She said, “I learned Buddhism under the guidance of a famous Zen Master who is living in the monastery pretty close to this shop. His name is Ryōtan Zen Master. You had better go there and practice under him.” So he immediately went to that monastery and practiced, instead of debating with a Zen Master about some aspect of the Diamond Sutra.
That is Tokusan or Te Shan Zen Master. In the future, he was a great Zen Master in China, in the line of Rinzai. Tokusan was noted for the strict and rough training of the monks.
Anyway, “When Te Shan arrived at arrived at Kuei Shan”: Isan or Kuei Shan was the founder of one of the Zen schools in China. In those days, there were the five schools of Zen. So, Te Shan arrived at Kuei Shan: probably Te Shan was trying to check out who Kuei Shan was. It’s just like before, visiting the famous temple in order to debate with the Zen Master on the Zen teachings, “Mind itself is Buddha.”
… he carried his bundle with him into the teaching hall, where he crossed from east to west and from west to east.
I think without setting down his bundles et cetera, immediately he went inside Kuei Shan’s monastery and the teaching hall. The teaching hall is usually located at the top of the hill. So he went there, without setting down his bundles. And also he walked to the left and to the right, and from west to east, east to west, going back and forth.
He looked around and said, “There is nothing, no one.” Then he went out.
Setchō added the comment, “Completely exposed.”
But when Te Shan got to the monastery gate, he said, “Still, I shouldn’t be so coarse.”
So he went out of the Buddha Hall, the teaching hall, but on the way to get out, he reflected a little bit upon what he had done. So he though, “I was so coarse, rude.”
So he reentered (the hall) with full ceremony to meet (Kuei Shan).
So he went back again and he re-entered the teaching hall with full ceremony to meet Kuei Shan […]
As Kuei Shan sat there, Te Shan held up his sitting mat and said, “Teacher!”
At that time Kuei Shan sat there, sitting zazen, and Te Shan held up his sitting mat. “Sitting mat” is what we call zagu; this one. This is very traditional: wherever you may go, when you see the teachers, first you have to express your respect to your teacher. At that time, you unfold this zagu and bow, and then after that you can talk and discuss. (Transcriber’s Note: The zagu is folded into a strip when not in use, hence it could be held up. Perhaps Te Shan was moving as if to unfold it to perform bows and then did not do so.)
Kuei Shan reached for his whisk …
Immediately, Kuei Shan started to move toward the whisk. The whisk is one of the ceremonial Zen [things]. Have you ever seen [this one]? This is a beautiful one. Now, in the modern age, we use a very beautiful one; sometimes we use hair from a horse’s tail. I don’t know; very beautiful anyway. It is said that in ancient times it was used for keeping away mosquitoes and flies. So now we use it for ceremony, keeping away devils – [he laughs] – and purifying all over, wherever it is, and also people. And also, the whisk is a manifestation of suchness, truth. But originally, in China, maybe it was used for keeping away mosquitoes and flies.
… whereupon Te Shan shouted, shook out his sleeves, and left.
This is very interesting, because Kuei Shan didn’t say anything but immediately he started to move toward the whisk, and immediately Te Shan shouted, shook out his sleeves, and left.
In this story, let’s imagine Te Shan. First, Te Shan went to the Buddha Hall, and he walked back and forth, to the west and east, and he said, “Nothing.” “Nothing” means there is nothing in the monastery. [He might be thinking,] “I came here to check for something about Kuei Shan. I wanted to know who Kuei Shan is. But I already feel from the Buddha’s Teaching Hall that there is nothing, so it’s not necessary to see Kuei Shan.” So he left. That is really rude. [He laughs.] Extraordinary. Very rude.
But on the way to leaving the Zen monastery, he reflected upon himself: “Oh, I was a little bit coarse. I should go back to see Kuei Shan with [the correct attitude].” And then, as Te Shan saw Kuei Shan sitting there, that is really sort of like a snake sitting there, with its head like this, [looking at Te Shan], and Te Shan just like a frog. [Laughter.]
I can imagine the situation. Te Shan really was rude and boasted of himself, “[I am a] Great Zen Master.” So he went back, a little bit reflecting on himself, but still, a very “holy” air. So immediately there is Kuei Shan sitting there. And Te Shan said “Teacher!” But when Te Shan said “Teacher!”, already Kuei Shan knew his mind, because Kuei Shan could read Te Shan’s mind through the word “Teacher.” A very holy air there. But Kuei Shan didn’t say anything, because it is completely beyond discussion: no matter how long you discuss about that, you cannot correct it, or you cannot accept it, or you cannot handle it. So immediately, he tried to take the whisk.
The whisk means daily routine, human daily life. Without daily living, you cannot exist. Even enlightenment: how can you attain enlightenment? Without your body and mind, can you attain enlightenment? No way, you cannot. I tell you very often, enlightenment is just like scenery you can see on the way during travel. It’s not something extra, something unusual, which makes you exciting. It is a pretty usual case: when you take a trip, very naturally you can attain enlightenment, you can see the scenery. That’s why Kuei Shan knows pretty well that for Te Shan enlightenment is something special. He really hangs on to enlightenment, et cetera; it makes his attitude a very holy air. Kuei Shan knows that pretty well, that’s why he immediately picked up his whisk. Picking up a whisk is already an answer to Te Shan.
Te Shan was also not a stupid monk, because he had practiced for many, many years, studying the Zen sutras, et cetera, so he was also very sharp. So immediately he shouted, he screamed, because [he thought], “What do you mean, whisk? What do you mean, daily living? You should keep your mouth shut! Enlightenment is completely beyond daily living or not daily living.” It’s sort of a “shut up!” So he shouted.
So Te Shan shouted and shook out his sleeves and left. Still there is a holy air, very boastful.
And Setchō added the comment, “Completely exposed.”
Te Shan turned his back on the teaching hall, put on his straw sandals, and departed.
So finally, he left the monastery, and that evening Kuei Shan asked the head monk, “Where is that newcomer who came this morning?”
The head monk said, “He left already.”
And Kuei Shan said, “Maybe in the future he could build a grass hut on the summit of the mountain, and slander Buddhas and patriarchs.”
That means, in a sense, Kuei Shan really respected his practice; but on the other hand, he didn’t accept his practice, because still there are “dregs” in the bottom of the bottle which is called enlightenment. When you hang on to something even slightly, there are dregs. It makes your attitude very rude and holy, and sometimes very rough.
Finally, Setchō added to the comment in the last part of this case:
“He adds frost to snow.”
Whatever you say, finally, there is nothing to say. Because Te Shan’s practice is pretty good, but still there is a haughty air. A haughty air for him is not something “wrong” or bad, but he has to check himself constantly.
What is Buddha’s way? Buddha’s way is not something you can see by those thirty-two “marks” which the Buddha has, which are called enlightenment, or your wonderful face, or your attitude. Buddha can’t be seen by these thirty-two marks. Buddha is day after day, you have to be alive. Anyway, alive. [He laughs.] Be alive. I don’t know how. Be alive, aiming at the destination: that is a Buddha. For human beings, the destination is Buddha.
We don’t know what a Buddha is. Well, we know; we can explain, and Buddha is very clear from Buddhism. But, finally it’s not clear; there is nothing to touch. It’s alive. Anyway, regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not, we have to move toward that, and our daily living must be alive. This be alive means that from moment to moment, wherever you are, beyond criticism, your life must be alive.
But it’s not so easy. “Be alive”: it seems to be easy, but it’s not so easy. Because, if you judge your life or evaluate your life, immediately you are bogged down with evaluation and [values], good or bad, right and wrong. This is very common. And then you judge yourself. Judge yourself by what? The experience you get; sort of the thirty-two marks Buddha has. You did something wrong, so you’re a “bad boy” – this is sort of that you are judged by your result, [what] you have done.
That is something you cannot ignore, but you cannot evaluate yourself by that which you have done. That [isn’t] something you have to carry on your back forever. Day by day, you have to be alive, beyond this. So, it is Buddha.
If you can judge by your feeling, or the character, or the result which you have done, at that time it is not Buddhism, because whatever you do, you can deepen your life. Through working in a company, through working in an office, through painting, through music – whatever you do, you can deepen yourself and your life.
At that time, people judge or evaluate you by what? Your achievement. “Good Dainin. Your painting is great.” But, Buddhism is not [only] a part of human life; Buddhism is pointing out life as a whole, the whole of life. Not only part means that if you have a profession which is called painting, you can show wonderful personality in the area of painting; that is a result. But it doesn’t connect with your daily living; your daily routine is something separate, something particular, extra. So even though you become a great painter, still, pretty easily, life is messy.
But Buddhism is not something like this. Buddhism always focuses on the whole of life, even in daily routine. Even right in the middle of evaluation and judgement, good or bad, right and wrong – still there is stillness. You can handle yourself, being alive.
So finally, the comment, “He adds frost to the snow.” Finally all you have to do is be alive – reflecting for yourself. Within “just be alive,” there are lots of questions. “What should I do?” From moment to moment: “What should I do? Is that correct?” Well, sometimes there is no way to judge; just do it. But immediately there is a question that is left: is that correct? After that, you should reflect upon yourself. And then right after reflecting upon yourself, let’s do it a different way – just like Te Shan. But it is not right always; still there is reflection there upon yourself: Is that correct? Within being alive, always there is a certain reflection, and you don’t know, always a question is left behind. That means consciousness is always picking up every moment.
If you pick up your daily life with consciousness, that daily life very naturally becomes conceptualized, [seeing] objects. Then immediately it becomes a red light; sometimes it becomes a yellow light. A flashing light comes up: is this good or bad? Or is this your experience you did? If you do something, immediately there is experience; that experience is nothing but a flashing light. Most people are very confused by these flashing lights. It’s not necessary to ignore it, because it is something you have to take responsibility for. But on the other hand, you cannot stop your life. All we have to do is aim at the ideal beautiful image of human life, which is called Buddha, and we have to move toward it, day by day. That is the final goal we have to do, practically.
I always tell you about shikantaza: just turn on the switch. This is a very simple practice. It is too simple to understand, [really]. But this is an urgent need we have to do.
Within this urgent need of just turning on the switch, there are lots of questions. Always the question is left: is this correct? Yes or no; always. All you have to do is turn on the switch, and lots of questions [come up]: “Is that right?” “Is that wrong?” Whatever those questions are, put them aside. By practice and study, behind the switch there is lots of philosophical and psychological background. By studying this background, maybe sometimes the questions are solved. “Oh, Katagiri was wrong.” Or, “Katagiri was right.” Sometimes you can solve questions immediately… but sometimes not. So this … turning on the switch every day, that is nothing to add to daily routine. If you say something about this, that is nothing but adding the frost to the snow.
But that is an urgent need that we have to do. When you do zazen, do zazen, that’s all. If you want to be a great musician, practice. What is practice? With practice should you expect certain progress? No way; you cannot expect anything. Our practice is is something which really you should do, from moment to moment. In the practice, your life must be alive; that’s enough.
So that is Setchō’s comment. In the Pointer, Setchō says:
Under the blue sky, in the bright sunlight, you don’t have to point out this and that anymore; but the causal conditions of time and season still require you to give the medicine in accordance with the disease. But tell me, is it better to let go, or is it better to hold still? To test, I cite this: look!
This pointer is divided into three sections: “Under the blue sky, in the bright sunlight, you don’t have to point out this and that anymore;” – that is one point. “… but the causal conditions of time and season still require you to give the medicine in accordance with the disease.” That is the second point. “But tell me, is it better to let go, or is it better to hold still? To test, I cite this: look!” [That is the third.]
Under the blue sky, in the bright sunlight, you don’t have to point out this and that anymore; …
“Under the blue sky in the bright sunlight” means the truth of human existence. Exactly nothing to say: it is very clear, it is very bright. There is no discrimination between trees and birds and human beings. Everything is very clear; just sunlight.
“You don’t have to point out this and that anymore”: this is daily routine; in the daily routine you can manifest yourself just like sunlight in a bright, blue sky. That is really the actual practice you have to do. When you get up, just get up, [unintelligible]. Just to get up is really manifesting yourself as blue sky, sunlight. But immediately there is some function of consciousness: “Why do I have to get up? Is it useful? Is zazen useful or not?” Lots of consciousness comes up. But whatever you think, the basis of your life is exactly blue sky and bright sunlight. So you don’t have to point out this and that anymore.
… but the causal conditions of time and season still require you to give the medicine in accordance with the disease.
But where do we live? The place where we live is not blue sky, not bright sunlight; we live in the human world. In the human world, we distinguish between trees and birds, humans and trees.
For example: look at the ocean. I always take swimming for an example: the ocean, or Lake Calhoun, whatever it is. The ocean is the same, exactly blue sky and bright sunlight. Whatever it is in the ocean – the small fish, micro-creatures, big boat, or storm – the ocean doesn’t care. The ocean is constantly blue sky and bright sunlight; this is the actual, original nature of the ocean. The same applies to the original nature of human existence. But simultaneously, what do you mean? That blue sky and bright sunlight are exactly accepting …
… shark, little size of fish, and big boats, small boats, and also human beings. Human beings, fish, boats, are different; completely discriminated [in this] world. But the ocean is constantly open to anything.
So, Katagiri should go to the ocean and just be one. What do you mean by “being one with the ocean”? The ocean is open to me, to you, in equality: if it is true, should I go to the ocean and just be one, just be in the ocean without doing anything? No. If you jump into the ocean, Katagiri must be Katagiri, because there is a degree of how much you can swim. This degree is different between you and I, and fish and boat. So, if you go to the ocean and dive into it, you have to manifest yourself as you really are, which is called according to the degree of how much you can swim. Or, who you are: boat, or fish? Small fish, or big fish? But, the ocean completely accepts you. In order to be one with the ocean, each of all beings individually manifests itself as it really is, as a fish, as a boat, as a Katagiri. As a beginner swimmer, as an advanced student of swimming, as a teacher of swimmers.
From this point, ocean is always blue sky, bright sunlight. But according to time and occasion – time and occasion means, time always makes something different. Katagiri becomes Katagiri, tree becomes tree, floor becomes floor. This is time: all beings which exist in the time process. In the time process, you cannot combine everything. Even though car is same [as you], you cannot combine. Car is same, but still there is a difference. So, book is book, floor is floor, table is table. That is the place where we live. The place where we live consists of time and space. The time, very naturally, makes all beings different, independent. And also space makes all beings alive in equality, connecting with each other. From this point, there is a time and occasion, time and season. But time and season require you to manifest yourself as you are.
But how can you manifest yourself as you are? Well, still you have to train yourself. That’s why you need to practice under the guidance of a teacher of swimming. The teacher always gives you a certain medicine according to your personality, your degree, how much you can swim. And then, finally, what should you do? Finally what you have to do is be one with the ocean. That is, dive.
That’s why here it says, “… but the causal conditions of time and season still require you to give the medicine in accordance with the disease.” Disease means there are different degrees, different characteristics, different personalities, different heredity, different [karma], different types of consciousness, [unintelligible]. So even though you’ve studied how to swim, still everyone manifests themself as [they are]; there is a different manifestation. So, you cannot just dive into the ocean without doing. You need the teacher, giving the medicine; you have to learn how to swim.
Then finally, you have to dive into the ocean. At that time, you can really understand blue sky and bright sunlight.
But tell me, is it better to let go, or is it better to hold still?
How to swim? To swim, should you always hold your hands in a certain pattern? No; you can’t do that. From moment to moment, your hands must be moving. Of course there is a certain pattern if you want to swim, which is called “a crawl”. Yes, there is an absolute pattern. But that pattern is something understood intellectually. When you dive into the ocean, there is no particular pattern. The particular pattern should disappear; it shouldn’t leave any trace which is called pattern, because it must be alive, day after day. Very naturally, a certain pattern moves, exactly according to the form of a certain pattern. But we’re always seeing a certain pattern as a form, objectively. When you dive into the ocean and become one with the ocean, you cannot hold onto that form of pattern. [Unintelligible.]
You cannot hold on [to the pattern]. On the other hand, should we ignore a pattern, how to swim? We cannot. We have to learn how to swim; we have to learn each pattern of how to swim. But we cannot always stay with it. Finally, when you dive into the ocean, all traces of all patterns should disappear. That means actual practice: it’s really alive, becoming one with the ocean. That is actual practice.
Within actual practice, there is always a question, which is: “Is it better to let go, or is it better to hold on?” Nothing to say. If you say something, it is already something adding frost to snow, don’t you think so?
This is an urgent need of your daily living. It’s really urgent.
Tomorrow, I would like to read the commentary by Engo Zen Master. It’s a very interesting commentary.
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This talk was transcribed by Kikan Michael Howard. Audio recordings of Katagiri Roshi are being used with permission of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center.