The Nature of ch'an (Zen) Buddhism*

Philosophy East and West 6, no.4 (October, 1957)
(C)by The university Press of Hawaii.

. p.333 As INTEREST IN Zen Buddhism has grown increasingly in Europe and America, misunderstandings of Zen have also developed. Most of the Westerners who have become interested in or are followers of Zen, after reading a few introductory books on the subject, treat Zen as a pastime and as a topic of casual conversation. Some of these newcomers may be serious enough to study Zen, but they then reach hasty conclusions from a knowledge of Zen acquired only through the meager sources now available in English and other European languages. Some may even go so far as to practice meditation with high hopes and expectations of reaching enlightenment or of achieving an experience within a short time, through a few hours of meditation. Some are quite happily content to cherish the wonderful notion of "here and now" and to dream in the easily-reached "enlightenment" of "I am the God and I am an ass," and the like. The fact is that most followers of Zen in the West have now reached a stage in which they find themselves spiritually emptied, intellectually confused, and psychologically tired of the endless Zen jargon after their association with it for some time. These are very normal reactions that happen and are to be expected in the course of Zen studies, because most Zen students, even in the Orient, have gone through the same experience at one time or another. With the hope of clearing away some of these misunderstandings, I now venture to present some information about Zen hitherto overlooked, to raise a few vital questions concerning Zen Buddhism which no doubt have also occurred to the minds of many Zen students, and to try to answer these questions briefly and plainly. Questionn 1. Is Zen altogether incomprehensible and completely beyond the reach of human understanding, as people have begun to think, as __________________________________ *Since the author of this paper is considering current interpretations of Zen Buddhism, the name "Zen" is retained although the philosophy originated in China, where it was called "Ch'an," and for this reason the basic literature referred to and the Zen masters mentioned are all Chinese. Similar considerations also explain the use of koan rather than kung-an.--Ed. p.334 a consequence of the influence of Dr. D. T. Suzuki's repeated stress on this point in his various works? Question 2. What is "Zen enlightenment"? Is "Zen enlightenment" identical with the "perfect enlightenment" defined in orthodox Buddhism? Is this Zen enlightenment (wu 悟 ) a once-and-for-all experience or is it many experiences! If there are many experiences, in what way do they differ from one another in essence or in degree of profundity? Question 3. How does the teaching of Zen compare with the teachings of the two main schools of thought in Mahaayaana, namely, the Yogaacaara and Maadhyamika? Question 4. Beneath the surface of the seemingly irrational and unorganized Zen stories through which Zen has been approached and understood is there a system, or order, or category that one can follow to make Zen more intelligible? Let us examine the first question, namely, "Is Zen unintelligible and completely beyond the reach of human understanding?" This vital problem, upon which the fate of Zen hinges as meaningful and valid knowledge as well as as a concrete and intimate spiritual truth, must be answered before any further inquiry into Zen can take place. Suzuki states in his article "A Reply To Ames": To understand Zen one must abandon all he has acquired by way of conceptual knowledge and strip off every bit of knowledge that he has painfully accumulated around him.(l) Also, in Living by Zen he goes further in saying: If we are to judge Zen from our common-sense view of things, we shall find the ground sinking away under our feet. Our so-called rationalistic way of thinking has apparently no use in evaluating the truth or untruth of Zen. It is altogether beyond the ken of human understanding. All that we can therefore state about Zen is that its uniqueness lies in its irrationality or its passing beyond our logical comprehension.(2) Here the question will inevitably arise, "If Zen is incomprehensible and irrational, as Suzuki has repeatedly emphasized, how can it be possible at all for any human being to understand Zen!" If one must abandon all conceptual knowledge and strip off every bit of intellection to understand Zen, as Suzuki has suggested, all the enlightened Zen masters in the past must have been completely unintelligent. ___________________________________ 1. D. T. Suzuki, "A Reply to Ames," Philosophy East and West, V, No. 4 (January, 1956), 349. 2. D. T. Suzuki, Living by Zen (Tokyo: Sanseido Press, 1949), p. 20. p.335 But historical facts show otherwise. These Zen masters were wiser than the average people, not only in their knowledge of Zen, but also on many other subjects as well. Their brilliant achievements in art, literature, and philosophy were indisputably of the first order and were prominently marked in all fields of Chinese culture. Then it is possible that the mistake made by Suzuki in his way of presenting Zen lies in his failure to distinguish between "to understand" and "to realize." To understand a thing does not mean to realize it. To understand Zen through an intellectual approach should by no means be confused with the direct realization of Zen truth. Thus, what he ought to have said is not that in order "to understand Zen," but, instead, that in order "to realize Zen," "one must abandon all he has acquired by way of conceptual knowledge" (in certain stages). To understand the wonderfully cold, sweet, and palatable taste of ice cream is not to have actually experienced its taste. To understand the taste of ice cream as cold, sweet, and palatable, but not bitter, hot, or pungent is comparable to understanding Zen as being direct rather than indirect, immediate rather than abstract, and transcendent rather than dualistic. Any student of Buddhism knows that "to understand" (了知 ) is very different from "to realize" (證知 ). The former belongs to the domain of "indirect measurement" (比量境界 ), while the latter belongs to the domain of "direct discernment" (現量境 界 ). To confuse the ideas of these two categories is almost comparable to a Catholic's saying to a solemn priest of his church that Jesus Christ is merely "a stick of dry dung." I am sure this man would be struck and driven out of the church, but, of course, not in the sense of Zen. To understand Zen through an intellectual approach is by no means "reprehensible." As a matter of fact, it is the only way for the beginner to approach Zen, for who can get into Zen without having first some understanding or "conceptual knowledge" about it! There is no exception to this for anyone. Suzuki continues in his article "A Reply To Ames": When, for instance, Dewey talks of "here and now," as quoted by Dr. Ames, they both neglect to face the problem personally and see what it experientially tells them. As I see it, they keep the "here and now" away from their lives and look at it from a conceptual distance. They somehow seem to be afraid of jumping right to the point where space and time have not yet differentiated themselves.(3) This seems to be a very unfair statement. May we ask Suzuki whether, when he studies, writes, and lectures on Zen, he also has jumped to the _________________________________________ 3. Suzuki, "A Reply to Ames," p. 349. p.336 point where space and time have not yet differentiated themselves? Or, has even he been studying Zen from a conceptual distance, too? A complete denial of the value of intellection is obviously unsound from the viewpoint of philosophy, religion, and Zen---especially Zen. Why? If Zen is to be considered, as it is, the essence of Buddhism through which the ultimate truth is expressed, it must be obstruction-free (一切無礙)and all-inclusive ( 一切容攝 ), as Hua-yen 華嚴 philosophy has explicitly explained, for, if the ultimate truth is ubiquitous and all-pervading, it cannot be other than all-inclusive and free from all obstructions. Thus, even the dry stick of dung is found with the Buddha. The mountain is a mountain and water is water; when I am hungry I eat, and when sleepy I sleep; the birds sing and the fish swim. What is wrong, then, with intellection and conceptual knowledge? Are they not also included in the great Tao Are they not also performances in the marvelous play of Buddhahood? Are not both intuition and intellection equally glorious and indispensable in the great drama of Dharmadhatu (the all-embracing totality)? From the ultimate viewpoint of Zen, what excuse can we have, then, to be in favor of one and detest the other? Actually, what Zen objects to is not intellection or conceptual knowledge as such; it is, rather, clinging (執 ) to intellection, or the conceptualization within the clinging-pattern, that Zen frowns upon. Now let us see how Zen deals with human clinging. Hsiang-yen 香嚴 (9th century) once asked his disciples: If a man climbs up a tree and he hangs from a branch by his teeth, his limbs suspended in the air without any support, and in the meantime a man comes under the tree and asks him: "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?" If the man does not answer, he then falls short of replying, but if he utters any answer he will fall down from the tree and lose his life. At this moment what should he do?(4) The meaning and purport of this interesting kung-an (Japanese, Koan) 公案 can be interpreted in two ways. First, this koan is a typical example of the often-used technique applied by the Zen masters to compel the disciple to retreat to the dead end of the tracks which his habitual thinking and associations have always followed, thus setting up a condition in which the disciple has no way whatsoever to allow his thoughts to function. Then, by pushing the disciple one step beyond to the unknown, the wisdom eye of the disciple may be opened. Second, if we look upon this koan metaphoricaly, it obviously reminds us of the forever-grasping or clinging na- _________________________________________ 4. See Vol. If of 高僧傳 ("Biographies of the Outstanding Monks"). p.337 ture of the human mind. It is indeed true that we as humans must have something to hold onto, or to cling to all the time. It seems unthinkable to us that the mind can function without having an object to think about. Never for a single moment can we do without an object to make mental or physical activity possible. Furthermore, on most occasions we must have more than one object to grasp or to cling to. If we lose one we can always resort to another; a blind man always resorts to his senses of hearing and touch. A loser in love always resorts to drink or religion, or something of the sort. But Zen masters always drive us to the absolute dead-end state, where we have nothing to grasp, cling to, or escape from. It is right here, at this point of desperation, that we must give up our habitual clinging for the absolute Great Release (全放 ), and it is right here that we must withdraw from the last ditch of our thought-tracks and surrender with both hands naked, with nothing for them to hold onto, and jump into the unknown abyss of Buddhahood. To confirm the statement that intellection itself is not to be condemned, but, rather, that it is the clinging that is objected to by Buddhist sages, I now quote the famous saying of Dilopa, the Indian guru who indirectly founded the Bka.h-rgyud-pa (Kagpupta) school in Tibet, when he preached for his disciple Naropa along the river Ganges on the teaching of Mahaamudraa: It is not the manifestations that have tied you in Sa^msaara, It is the clinging that has tied you down. O, it is the clinging that made you--Naropa!(5) It is very true that Zen emphasizes direct experience and denounces mere intellection, which is essentially abstract and indirect. Zen masters were certainly unwilling to encourage any type of speculation on Zen if they could help it, nor did they like to speak too plainly(6) about what they understood, for if they did so people would simply form another notion about Zen which would inevitibly lead back into the old vicious circle of intellection __________________________________ 5. "This is a well-known saying of Mahaamudraa, widely used in Tibet. The original wording of the sentence in Tibetan is: "Sna^n wa ma byi^n shen Pa byi^n She^n Pa khyod kyis Naropa." The documentation is not available at present. See W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (London: Oxford University Press, 1954). 6. "Pu-shuo-p'o" 不說破 ("not to speak too plainly") was rightly translated by Hu Shih in his article "Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism in China," Philosophy East and West, III, No. 1 (April, 1953), 3-24. Though his understanding and interpretation of Ch'an were purely from the historian's viewpoint, which may not be considered sound from the philosophical viewpoint, his translation of this term "pu-shuo-p'o" was correct. Suzuki gave an elaborate explanation of "pu-shuo-p'o, " which covered almost three pages in his article "A Reply to Hu Shih," Philosophy East and West, III, No. 1 (April, 1953), 25-46. Here I am afraid Suzuki missed the point. He stressed only the inexpressible or inscrutable aspect of Zen truth. p.338 and philosophy. Thus, to use any method or trick which would bring the disciple directly to the point and never to speak too plainly about Zen became the unique "tradition of Zen" cherished with pride by all Zen followers. However, one should not think that Zen masters are always obscure and strange in their remarks. Contrary to present interpretations, they spoke very plainly and sincerely on most occasions. Just to read the complete discourse of any one Zen master will verify this statement. Even the heroes of the extremists like Ma-tsu 馬祖, T-shan 德山, and Lin-chi 臨濟 were plain and understandable on many occasions. Their instructions would make us think that some good-hearted minister was preaching with simple words and great sincerity to his audience. This is because Zen is most practical. It cares for nothing but to bring the individual directly to enlightenment, and, since individuals vary greatly in their capacities and aptitudes, Zen masters must use different methods and teachings for different individuals in different circumstances. Therefore, Zen styles and Zen expressions vary greatly from the most enigmatic and irrational koans to the plainest and most understandable instructions. The ironic fact is that, though Zen claims itself to be a "special transmission outside the scriptures with no dependence upon words and letters," Zen monks wrote many more books than those of any other Buddhist sect in China. Concluding the discussion of the first question, my answer is this: 1. Zen is by no means altogether beyond the reach of human understanding. 2. It is through the "understanding of Zen" that the "realization of Zen" comes. 3. According to the ultimate view of Zen, it is utterly wrong to exclude or degrade any dharma. This, of course, includes intellection and conceptual knowledge, for they are also embraced by and are identical with the supreme Buddhahood.(7) 4. The abandonment of conceptual knowledge is only temporary; it is merely a practical means, not a strived-for aim. 5. Intellection is rejected by Zen masters only for certain types of individuals at certain stages. ____________________________________________ 7. There are three different schools of thought in Buddhism concerning the relationship between the kle`sas (passions or desires) and bodhi, sa^msaara, and Theravaada stresses the necessity of destroying the passions in order to attain General Mahaayaana advocates the transformation of the passions into bodhi. The third school emphasizes the dentity of the sentient being and the Buddha, the passions and bodhi, and sa^msaara and, since from the ultimate viewpoint there is no difference between the pure and the impure. This last view is held by both Zen and Tantra. p.339 II Since "enlightenment" (悟 wu) is the "Alpha and Omega" of Zen Buddhism, as Suzuki has pointed out,(8) let us now approach this crucial subject and discuss the second problem under consideration: What is "enlightenment," or, more accurately speaking, what is "wu" as understood by Zen? Is it one experience or many experiences? The plain answer is given in the following tentative definition of wu: Wu is the direct experience of beholding, unfolding, or realizing the mindessence in its fullness. In terms of essential characteristics, the wu experience is illuminating yet void, serene yet dynamic, transcending yet immanent, free yet all-embracing. Wu experiences are one and also many. They are one because they are identical in essence; they are many because they are different in profundity, clearness, and proficiency. This gives a brief idea of the meaning and nature of wu. Now, before examining the wu experience further, let us first examine the very meaning of the Chinese word 悟 "wu." "Wu" means to awake to the fact, or, loosely, to understand. The usage of this word as shown in the Zen tradition in denoting the inner experiences of the awakening to the praj~naa-truth (the truth realized through transcendental wisdom) is clearly different from the meaning of ch$ng-t$ng-cheh 正等覺 (samyaksambodhi), which is the final and perfect enlightenment of Buddhahood. It is very interesting to learn that wu is also called satori (sambodhi) in Japan.(9) This is a deviation from the original Ch'an tradition. The Ch'an Buddhists in China seldom used the term "sambodhi" to denote their Ch'an experience, even "bodhi, " translated as "cheh" in Chinese, was not used often. Though the meaning of "cheh" and "wu" are very close, a slight difference still exists between the two. Wu describes better the awakening aspect in its immediate sense, while cheh denotes permanent and complete enlightenment. For instance, Ta-cheh 大覺 is used only in reference to the Buddha and is seldom applied even to the celebrated Ch'an masters, except in a complimentary sense in honorary titles. There are many other reasons which verify the wu experiences as being different from the final, perfect, and complete enlightenment of Buddhahood as generally understood. The frequent use of wu instead of cheh by the Ch'an Buddhists illustrates this point. Since wu is in the main an experience of awakening to praj~naa-truth, it ________________________________ 8. D. T. Suzuki, Zen Buddhism, "Anchor Books" (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1956), p. 84. 9. Ibid., p. 83. p.340 is not necessarily the person who attains this wu experience who can fully master, deepen, and mature it. A great deal of work is needed to cultivate this vast and bottomless praj~naa-mind to make it blossom fully. In order to reach perfection, it also takes a long time to remove the dualistic, selfish, and deeply rooted habitual thoughts arising from passions. This is very clearly shown in many Zen stories, as well as unmistakably stated in this Zen proverb, for example, "The truth should be understood through sudden enlightenment, but the fact [the complete realization) must be cultivated step by step."(10) Thus, we know that Zen enlightenment, wu, varies greatly from the shallow glimpse of the mind-essence of the beginners to full Buddhahood as realized by the Buddha and a few advanced Zen masters. However, these experiences are different only in degree of profundity, not in essence or in basic principle. To understand Zen Buddhism, therefore, one must study the Oxherding Pictures (牧牛圖 ), the principle of the Three Gates (三關 ), the Five Positions of the King and the Minister (五位君臣 ), and the Four Distinguishments (四料簡 )of Lin-chi, and others, with their commentaries. Without some understanding of these theses, one can hardly expect to understand Zen even in a superficial way. In order to give the Western reader a more genuine picture of how Zen enlightenment actually takes place, I have translated a short autobiography of T'ieh-shan 鐵山, in which he recounts his personal experience of wu during his long striving for enlightenment. This story is first-hand informa- tion, which is better than any explanation or description given by eloquent and learned but inexperienced scholars. According to T'ieh-shan's account: I knew Buddhism from the time I was thirteen. At the age of eighteen I joined the priesthood... then one day I read a thesis brought by a monk from Hsehyen 雪巖, called "Advice on Meditation" (坐禪箴 ). After reading it, I became aware that I had not yet reached the stage mentioned in this book. Therefore, I went to Hseh-yen and followed his instruction in meditating on the sole word wu. On the fourth night sweat exuded all over my body, I felt very comfortable and light. I remained in the meditation hall concentrating on my meditation without talking to anyone. After that, I saw Miao-kao-fng 妙高峰, and was instructed to meditate on the word wu without a moment of interruption, day or night. When I got up before dawn the hua-t'ou 話頭 (the gist of the sentence) immediately presented itself before me. As soon as I felt a little sleepy, I left the seat and descended to the ground. The hua-t'ou never departed from me at any time, even while walking, preparing my bed and food, picking up my spoon or laying down the chopsticks. ____________________________________ 10. This is;i well-known Zen proverb and is used widely by Zen students in China. The original documentation is not available at present. p.341 It was with me all the time in all my activities, day and night. If one can fuse his mind into one whole, continuous piece, he cannot help but attain enlightenment. Following this advice, I was fully convinced of my actual arrival at such a state. On the 20th of March, Master Yen addressed the congregation: "My dear brothers, it is of no use to feel sleepy while sitting for a long time on your meditation seat. If you are sleepy, you should leave the seat and walk on the ground, use cold water to wash your face and mouth and freshen your eyes. Then you may go back to your seat again, sitting with your spine erect, freshening your mind as if you were standing on a precipice of ten thousand measures, and take up solely your hua-t'ou (the gist of the sentence).(11) If you keep on working like this for seven days, you will certainly come to the realization. It was such an effort as this that I made forty years ago." I practiced according to this instruction for some time and soon I felt unusual improvement. By practicing in this way the next day I felt that I could not close my eyes even if I wanted to. The third day I felt as if my body were floating in the air. The fourth day I became completely unconscious of anything going on in this world. That same night I leaned upon a baluster and stood there for some time. My mind was so serene that it was as if it were in a state of unconsciousness. I collected my hua-~t'ou and lost it not, and then I proceeded back to my seat. When I was just about to sit down, I suddenly experienced a sensation that my whole body, from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, was split. The feeling was something like having one's skull crushed by somebody; it was also like the sensation of being lifted up from the bottom of a ten-thousand-foot well to the high sky. I then told Master Yen about this [indescribable ecstasy] and the non-attaching joy that I had just experienced. But Master Yen said to me: "No, this is not it. You should keep working on your meditation." Upon my request, Master Yen gave me the words of Dharma (法語 ), the last two lines of which read like this: "To propagate and glorify the 'upgoing' affair ( 向上事 )of Buddhas and Patriarchs You still need a good hammer-strike On the back of your head." I kept on saying to myself: "Why do I need a hammering on the back of my head?" I was not at all convinced of this. However, it seemed that there was still some slight doubt in my mind, something of which I was not sure I meditated thus a long time every day for almost half a year. One day when I was boiling some herbs for a headache I recalled a Koan about Naja 哪吒, in which a question was put ________________________________ 11. "Hua-t'ou" ("the gist of the sentence"). Suzuki uses "koan exercise" instead of "hua-t'ou exercise" at most places in his writings. See Suzuki, Zen Buddhism, p. 139. Although both "Roan" and "hua-t'ou" may be used to denote the "inquiry exercise of Zen," the latter is original and more accurate. "Koan" implies the entire Zen story, including all the events, plus the main question at issue, and therefore it is a general term, while "hua-t'ou" is very specific. "Hua-t'ou" denotes only the question, not the whole story, and in most cases only the "gist," "highlight, " or "tip," so to speak, of the question is implied. p.342 to him by Red Nose (赤鼻 ): "If you return the bones of your body to your father and its flesh to your mother, where would 'you' be then?" I remember that once I couldn't answer this question when I was asked by the host monk, but now, suddenly my doubt was broken. Later, I went to Mng-shan 蒙山. The Master Meng-shan asked me: "When and where can one consider his Zen work is completed?" I could not answer this question. Master Mng-shan urged me to stress my effort on meditation (dhyaana) to wash away worldly habitual thoughts. Each time I entered his room and gave my answer to his interrogation, he always said that I still had not got to it. One day I meditated from afternoon to the next morning, using the power of dhyaana to sustain and press forward, until I directly reached [the stage of] profound subtlety. Arising from dhyaana I went to the Master and told him my experience. The Master asked me: "What is your original face?" When I was just about to answer, the Master drove me out and closed his door. From that time on I gained a subtle improvement every day. Later I realized that the whole difficulty was because i had not stayed long enough with Master Hsehyen to work on the subtle and fine part of the task. But how fortunate I was to meet a really good Zen master. Only through him was I able to reach such a stage. Not until then had I realized that if one exerts himself in an incessant and compelling manner he will gain some realization from time to time, and strip off his ignorance at each step of the way. Master Mng-shan said to me: "This is like stripping a pearl. The more you strip it, the brighter, clearer, and purer it becomes. One stripping of this kind is superior to a whole incarnation's work of another." Nevertheless, every time I tried to answer my Master's question I was always told that something was still lacking in me. One day in meditation, the word "lacking" came to my mind, and suddenly I felt my body and mind open wide from the core of my marrow and bone, through and through. [The feeling was] like old piled-up snow suddenly melting away [under the bright] sun that had emerged after many dark and cloudy days. I could not help but laugh out heartily. I jumped down abruptly from my seat and caught Master Mng-shan's arm with my hand and said to him: "Tell me, tell me! What do I lack! What do I lack?" The Master slapped my face three times, and I prostrated myself before him three times. The Master said: "Oh, T'ieh-shan, it has taken you several years to get here!"(12) III The third question: How does the teaching of Zen compare with the two main schools of Mahaayaana, namely, Yogaacaara and Maadhyamika? From the viewpoint of Mahaayaana Buddhism, there is no essential difference between Zen and conventional Mahaayaana Buddhism, except the unique techniques applied and the unconventional expressions used by Zen ________________________________ 12. This story is selected from Chu-hung 袾宏 (1535-1616), "Exhortation to the Advance Through Ch'an Gates" 禪關策進. p.343 in illustrating the praj~naa-truth of the mind-essence. Zen agrees with the basic philosophy of both Yogaacaara and Maadhyamika. Zen embraces the essence of both these teachings. Now first let us see in what way Zen resembles Yogaacaara. Yogaacaara and Zen The Mind-only (vij~naptimaatra 唯識) philosophy of Yogaacaara is summarized by Hsan-chuang 玄奘 in his translation-composition of Ch'ngwei-shih lun 成 唯識論 as follows: "No dharmas [of sa^msaara or of] are apart from consciousness. Some of them can be ascribed to the selfforms of consciousness, some to the counterparts of consciousness, some to the objects transformed by consciousness, some to the divisions and domains of consciousness, and some to the essence of consciousness."(13) Among these five cardinal points of the Mind-only philosophy, the first and the last are most important. Also, it is through these two that we can clearly see the parallels between Zen and Yogaacaara. Now, let us examine what Yogaacaara has to say about the self-form or self-nature of consciousness. According to Yogaacaara each of the eight consciousnesses (14) has three functional divisions:(15) first, the "objective or seen portion (相分, _______________________ 13. Hsan-chuang 玄奘 (596-664). 成唯識論 Ch'en Wei Shih Lun (Vij~napti-maatrataa-siddhi`saastra) , chap. 7. 14. The eight consciousnesses are: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongueconsciousness, body-consciousness, mind, ego-consciousness and storehouse- consciousness. 15. According to Sthiramati 安慧, there are only three portions of each consciousness. In contrast to Dharmapaala's 護法 theory of four portions, Sthiramati's is much clearer and simpler. The fourportion theory as propounded by Dharmapaala seems to be redundant and it has been criticized by a number of Yogaacaara scholars in recent years. Some explanation on the four portions is given in Junjiro Takakusu, The Essentials of Buddhist philosophy (Honolulu: University of Hawaii,1947), p. 88. It is also recommended that the reader see p. 89, in which the three object-domains (三境 ) , which are in close relation with the four-portions theory, are explained. However, Takakusu's explanation of the object-domain of mere shadow (獨影境 )is too concise and thus misleading: "The object-domain of mere shadow or illusion. The shadow-image appears simply from one's own imagination and has no real existence. Of course, it has no original substance as a ghost which does not exist at all. Only the sixth, sense-center, functions on it and imagines it to be." This passage gives the impression that the sixth consciousness--the most active and versatile among the eight consciousnesses--which people generally call "mind," is a faculty which senses (緣 )solely the delusive images. This is not true. The Pa shih Kuei-ch Sung 八識規矩頌 by Hsan-Chuang explains the sixth consciousness in relation to the-three object-domains in the following sentence: "It includes the three natures, three measurements and also three object domains (三性三量通三境 ). This sentence describes the sixth consciousness as being a consciousness which embraces all the three natures (三性 )--good, had, and neutral; the three measurements (三量 )--the direct measurement ( 現量 ), the indirect measurement (比量 ) , and the erroneous measurement (非量 ); the three object-domains (三 境 )--the object-domain of nature (性境 ), the object-domain of mere shadow (獨影 ) , the object-domain with the original substance ( 帶質 境 ). Thus, we know that the sixth consciousness functions not merely on the delusive images which characteristically belong to the erroneous measurement but also function on the object-domain of nature which belongs to the direct measurement, and also functions on the object with the original substance, in some cases. p.344 equivalent to what the epistemologists call sense-datum; second, the subjective or seeing portion (見分 dar`sana-bhaaga), the cognitive faculty which many philosophers erroneously take as the mind per se; and, third, the self-witnessing portion (自證分 saak.saatkaari-bhaaga) . This self-witnessing or self-awareness portion is considered by Yogaacaara as pure consciousness itself while the other two portions are merely false imaginings created by consciousness through its habitual patterns. This emphasis on the selfawareness portion is of great importance, and of far-reaching effect, especially from the practical viewpoint. This emphasis on self-awareness is also found in Zen. Zen Master Shn-hui 神會 (668-770) said: "The one word 'knowledge' (chih 知 ) is the gateway to all mysteries." (16) What he meant here by chih was deep self-awareness or praj~naa-intuition, as Dr. Suzuki has rightly pointed out in his "Reply To Hu Shih."(17) This chih, or self-awareness, is intrinsically non-dualistic. It can be aware of itself and can be aware as such, without any outer object as an indispensable "reliance" (所依 )or stimulus whereby thoughts within the dualistic pattern are brought into play. Thus, the retaining of self-awareness will automatically stop the functioning of the first portion (the objective known) as well as the second portion (the subjective knowing). The cultivation of self-awareness or pure consciousness will thus eventually annihilate all dualistic thoughts and bring one to Buddhahood. Here is the core of Yogaacaara, and here we find the reason both Yogaacaara and Zen claim the importance of seeing one's mind-essence by warding off the dualistic pattern of thought. Both Zen and Yogaacaara claim that no dharmas are apart from the mind. They are merely manifestations and images of mind. The only difference that one may find between Zen and Yogaacaara is the way of approaching the same truth and the way of expressing it. For instance, Yogaacaara explains the states of mind through an analytical approach in a pedantic and wearying manner. With great patience, it goes into all details and classifications of every state of mind, whereas Zen expresses them in a more lively and dramatic way. In contrast to Yogaacaara's detailed descriptions as to how the aalaya (storehouse) consciousness conjures up the outer world, projects its own images, holds the seeds-of-names-and-forms, seeds-of-habitualthoughts, etc., Zen explains the same truths in a very simple and illuminating way. This art of elucidating the profound and obscure truth through simple and lively words is found in many Zen stories. The story of Hui-n$ng's ________________________________________ 16. "For this sentence see Hu Shih, "Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism in China," Philosophy East and West, III, No. 1 (April, 1953), 3-24. Hu Shih rendered this sentence as "The one word 'knowledge' is the gateway to all mysteries." 17. Suzuki, "A Reply to Hu Shih," pp. 31-32. p.345 慧能 (638-713) remark on the moving flag and wind is a typical example: "Two monks were arguing whether it was the wind or the flag that was moving. For a long time they could not settle the problem. Then Huinng arose from the audience and said: "It is neither the wind, nor the flag, it is the mind, that moves."(18) With the simplest language and in the easiest manner Zen-explains the profoundest truth, while Yogaacaara uses many words to explain its ideas. Another sharp contrast between Yogaacaara and Zen is that the former takes the gradual approach toward enlightenment, while the latter goes straight ahead to grasp it directly. The gradual approach of Yogaacaara is typified by its meditation process called "Observation on the Mind-only Doctrine in Five Steps," as systematized by K'uei-chi 窺基 (632-682). Among the five steps, the third is important and crucial. It is called "reducing the offshoots to the main consciousness." In this stage the student is taught to strip off the first and second portions and come to self-awareness. The fourth step is called "curtailing the inferior and unfolding the superior consciousness." In this stage the student is taught to absorb himself in pure consciousness and disassociate himself from the functional activities of consciousness. The fifth stage is called "discarding the forms and realizing the nature of consciousness," "forms" meaning the "shade" or the "clinging" of pure consciousness. That is to say, not until all the inborn and acquired clingings and also the clingings to ego and to the dharmas are completely annihilated can one fully realize the nature of the ultimate reality. These progressive stages of unfolding pure consciousness remind us of the famous Zen Master T-shan's remarks: "If you do not understand, I'11 strike you with thirty blows and, if you do understand, I'11 also strike you with thirty blows."(19) It is easy to understand the justification of being struck if one does not understand the truth. But why does one deserve a blow after his enlightenment? Explaining this in a superficial way, we may say that it was the master's intention to test the disciple, but, when we think carefully about it do we not sense that the blow given after one's enlightenment is aimed at bringing the disciple up to a stage of further enlightenment by striking him out of clinging to the shallow experience that he hitherto had attained? Zen masters seldom explain their intention plainly if they can help it. They love to act rather than explain, to demonstrate rather than expound. This is where and only where Zen sharply differs from Yogaacaara. _____________________________ 18. 六祖壇經, ("Discourses of the Six Patriarchs") ( 台灣佛學書局 ), p. 18. 19. Te-shan goto egen 五燈會記, Bk. VII: Dianikon Zokuzokyo 大日本續藏編三十一套, p. 116. p.346 Now let us proceed to the comparison of Maadhyamika, the Middle Way, and Zen. Maadhyamika and Zen The outstanding and unique contribution of Buddhism to philosophy is its vast and profound teaching of voidness (`suunyataa). Glancing over the history of philosophy, both East and West, it is difficult to find a school of thought that can equal Buddhism on this subject. It seems that one of the main interests that have inspired the philosophers and theologians of the West to proceed in their searching after truth is this: What is existence and how do things exist? We may even go so far as to say that this is the springboard of Western philosophies. In contrast to this "emphasis on the study of existence, " Buddhism has put all its stress on the "study of voidness, or non-existence." Present-day Western thinkers may not yet have seen clearly the importance and significance of `suunyataa, for it was not until very recently that the philosophy of `suunyataa was introduced to the West, except in fragments, through limited translations of Buddhist texts. While the whole field of `suunyataa studies remains to be fully explored by Western thinkers, the philosophy of voidness has been of incalculable influence on Buddhist as well as non-Buddhist thinkers throughout Asia, as history has shown. When `suunyataa was practiced and speculated upon in the old days of Buddhist history, the theory of non-ego (anaatman) and the thought of the " without residue" (nirupaadhi`^m 無餘湟 槃 )were formulated, and many Arhats were also produced. When `suunyataa was examined by the analytical-minded Yogaacaara scholars, the Mind-only philosophy with its theory of the twofold-voidness, together with the elaborate system of Buddhist psychology, was founded. When it conjoined with Tantra, the Diamond Vehicle (Vajrayaana) emerged. When it was thoroughly absorbed into the minds of the faithful and candid Tibetans, it overwhelmed them and finally superseded the ritualistic Tibetan Tantrism, giving birth to the widely practiced teaching called "the mind-essence practice" (Tibetan, sems ngo) of the Rnyin Ma and Bka.h-rgyud schools. When `suuyataa is not treated as a game of pure speculation but as the only means by which all serious problems of Buddhism can be solved, one cannot help but proceed to search out the practical, instead of the purely theoretical, teachings of `suunyataa that may be useful in helping one to reach enlightenment. This impulse was so strong and so earnest that, once conjoined with the practical Chinese mind, it could not help but produce Ch'an (Zen). Therefore, without a thorough understanding of the philosophy of voidness it is impossible to understand any form of Buddhism, especially Zen. p.347 Since, in this article, it is not possible to discuss all facets of Zen Buddhism in relation to praj~naapaaramitaa, which is exemplarily propounded by Maadhyamika, only a few Zen stories and some common sayings of praj~naapaaramitaa will be reviewed here to illustrate the similarities between the two. Maadhyamika (Middle Way) is also called the Doctrine of Voidness (空宗 ). The central philosophy of Maadhyamika is the study of voidness, but what is voidness? Generally speaking, it is difficult to define or to describe voidness in its direct and unmistakable sense. The human mind is completely and helplessly bound up with the belief in existence. Forms of human thought, good or bad, shallow or profound, synthetic or analytical, etc., are all produced by the "clinging to the dharmas," which makes voidness inaccessible to the mind. As a consequence, the use of any word or idea to define, or even describe, voidness is sure to fail. We can best describe it only through implication. For instance, void means containing no-thing, etc. No matter how hard we try, voidness can be described or defined only through the annulment of existence, although this is obviously an indirect and useless approach. The definition brought out through this kind of approach can never be considered, of course, as positive and satisfactory in meaning. The very fact of the impossibility of defining voidness in a positive way reflects the truth and the practical value of the eight negations of Maadhyamika.(20) Although voidness can be reached through both negation and assertion, as many Zen stories show, the best avenue of approach to it for most people is through negation. Negation is no doubt the best antidote for the inherited overbearing tendency toward the ego- and dharma-clingings of the mind. Thus, the eight negations propounded in the Maadhyamika `Saastra should not be treated as a negative philosophy as such. Instead, they should be regarded as instructions with practical value for praj~naa-meditation. It is through absolute negation that the ultimate truth is expressed. This is called "to illustrate through negating," which is a favorite method widely used by Zen masters. We may go so far as to say that the majority of Zen Koans were based on this approach. The ingenious Zen masters used many colorful phrases and expressions to illustrate the praj~naa-truth. T'ou-t'o 透脫 is a very good example. T'ou 透脫 means to penetrate or break through, t'o 脫 means to release or to strip off. To break through the walls of clinging and to strip off dualistic conceptions is the only way to obtain enlightenment. The purpose of preaching the eight negations, eighteen voidnesses, etc., in `saastras and suutras was for nothing more than to make us break through and strip off. But note how easy and __________________________________ 20. The eight negations: no arising, no extinction, no eternity, no cessation, no oneness, no manifoldness, no coming, no going. p.348 how simple the Zen expression is: with only two words the bulky literature of praj~naapaaramitaa and Maadhyamika is explained. In short, the teaching of Maadhyamika is in essence identical with that of Zen. To repeat, the only difference is that Zen expresses the teaching in a more practical and lively manner. The blows and the unexpected answers of Zen that knock one out offer a more direct and more practical method than the eight negations and eighteen voidness, etc., ever could offer as a means through which one is carried right to the heart of praj~naa-truth. The Sixth Patriarch asked Huai-jang 懷讓 (?-775): "Where do you come from?" Huai-jang said: " I come from Mount Su." The Patriarch said: "What is it and how does it come?" Huai-jang said: "Anything I could say would miss the point."(21) In contrast to the eight negations, is this remark not more explicit and direct in illustrating the undefinable and incomprehensible nature of praj~naa? A monk asked Chao-chou 趙洲 (778-896) "All things are reducible to one---to what is the one reducible?" Does this question not typically reflect the profound aspect of the "Thoroughness of the void," which transcends all monotheistic principles and characterizes Buddhism as a "super" religion? But Chao-chou said: "When I was staying at Chin-chou, I made a robe of cloth weighing seven chin."(22) HOW improper and illogical this answer seemed to be, in reply to such an important question, and how stupid it was to say one would make a nine-pound robe to wear. This answer, which makes no sense whatsoever to an intellectual, sounds very stupid even to an ordinary man. But, if we think about it carefully, does not this down-to-earth seemingly stupid statement demonstrate vividly the limitations of human intellection which is solidly molded in derivative and sequential patterns? Does it not also suggest that we should go beyond conceptualization to get the unanswerable question answered? Chao-chou was indeed a remarkable master, but sometimes he was too profound to be understood. Even Huang-po 黃蘗 (?-850) failed to catch him up,(23) and Hsueh-feng 雪 峰 (822-308) called him the ancient Buddha and bowed to him at a distance when he was asked to comment on him.(24) On the other hand, Zen stories and sayings will not shock or puzzle ____________________________ 21. 景德傳燈錄 Keitoku dento roku ("Transmission of the Lamp"), Bk. V: Taisho Daizokyo no. 2076; vol. LI, p. 240. 22. "Chin" is a Chinese unit of weight equal to about 11/3 pound avoirdupois. 23. 見賊過後張弓案 (See the Koan of "Drawing the Bow After the Thief Had Left"), National Journal of Interpretation of Zen, p. 13 v. 16. 24. 見古 (水 + 閒 )寒泉案 (See the Koan of "The Cold Fountain and the Ancient Stream") , National Journal of Interpretation of Zen, p. 13 v. 16. p.349 Maadhyamika scholars at all. They merely find the Zen approach interesting, with some worthy points as well as some bad ones. They perceive, too, that there is a great danger of falling into nonsensical talk without inner understanding of the subject. This is what has actually happened in Zen, and Zen masters called this type of worthless imitation "Zen from the mouth." To Maadhyamika scholars, the Zen claim of the Buddha's being the dry stick of dung is not at all sacrilegious or surprising, for they know what the Praj~naa-paaramitaa-h.rdaya-suutra says so very clearly on the point: "The void nature of all dharmas is not arising or extinction, not pure or impure, not increasing or decreasing--." If one understands that reality is neither pure nor impure, he finds the Buddha in heaven as well as in the dung.(25) In concluding this review of Zen and Maadhyamika, I must say that through studying Zen one will understand Maadhyamika better, and through studying Maadhyamika one will understand Zen better. IV Now let us come to the fourth question: Beneath the surface of the seemingly irrational and unorganized Zen stories is there a system, or order, or category that we can follow to make Zen more intelligible? The answer is yes. As a matter of fact there are many different systems laid down by Zen masters to classify the Zen Koans. Among them Lin-chi's "Four Distinguishments(26) (四料簡 )may be considered as the best and clearest one through which many enigmatic koans can be deciphered. This "Four Distinguishments" was given by Lin-chi himself, who once said to disciples: Sometimes I snatch away the person and save, or do not snatch away, the object. Sometimes I snatch away the object but save the person. Sometimes I snatch away both the object and the person. Sometimes I snatch away neither the person nor the object.(27) ___________________________________ 25. see: 般若心經 (Praj~naa-paaramitaa-h.rdaya) Chinese text: 是諸法空想不生不滅不垢不淨不增不滅 26. Szu liao chien 四料簡 iS expediently translated here as the "Four Distinguishments." it may also be rendered as the "Four Distinguishments and Select;ons." 27. 鎮州臨濟慧照禪師語錄 ("Discourses of Zen Master Lin-chi Hui-chao of Chn-chou"), 國譯禪學大成第五 卷 ("National Journal of interpretation of Zen"), V. 5. p.350 To make these understandable to the reader, I shall first quote Lin-chi's own abstruse explanation, then Tsu-yan's 祖源 (17th century) explanation, and in conclusion my own interpretation. But first let me give some explanation of this peculiar expression, the "Four Distinguishments": "To snatch away the person" means to reject, refuse, repudiate, disapprove, or "steal away" the person who comes to the Zen master for instructions; "save the object" (ching 境 )means not to disapprove the remark made by the person. The Chinese word "ching" as used by the Chinese Buddhists has many meanings, such as the scene, domain, sphere, object, understanding, etc. Zen Buddhists seemed to have a special usage for this word; for instance, ching-pu-shng 境不生 means a certain specific experience of Zen which has not yet arisen in the disciple. "Ching" therefore means the specific experience or understanding within one's mind, which, of course, can be referentially treated as an "object" visualized or comprehended by the mind. Since this word "ching" is very difficult to translate, for the sake of convenience I now translate it as "object." However, the reader must not treat the word "object" literally. Generally speaking, "to snatch away the person but save the object" means to disapprove or reject the questioner but not to reject his remark. In a similar manner the other three methods can be understood. These "Four Distinguishments" are four methods used by Zen masters in dealing with Zen disciples on four different levels of Zen understanding. Lin-chi's own explanation of the Four Distinguishments is found in his "Discourse" (語錄 ): (28) The disciple asked Lin-chi, "What does it mean to snatch away the person but save the object?" Lin-chi answered: "When the bright sun arises Embroideries cover the great earth. The hanging hairs of the infant Are as white as the snow." The disciple asked again: "What does it mean to snatch away the object but save the person?" Lin-chi answered: "The order of the king was sanctioned in the whole nation, While the general is isolated from the smoke and dust Far away beyond the border land." "What does it mean to snatch away both the person and the object?" Lin-chi answered: "While no message is forthcoming from Ping and Fng One stays alone in the whole area." "What, then, does it mean to snatch away neither the person nor the object?" Lin-chi answered: "While the emperor ascends his royal seat, _____________________________________ 28. Ibid. p.351 Over the field are heard The songs the old folks sing." These poems are very enigmatic, especially the second and third. Though the first and fourth are rather clear in their implications, the gist of the fourfold method obviously was not clearly explained for people to understand. To make it more intelligible I now quote the explanations given by Tsuyan in his influential book: "Mind--the Source of All Dharma" (萬法歸心錄 ). (29) The disciple asked Tsu-yan: "What does it mean to snatch away the person but not snatch away (save) the object" Tsu-yan answered, "In the domain of self-awareness, if one can empty his mind, what obstruction can there be from an outer object?' [Therefore,] when a Zen master teaches a disciple of low capacity, he should snatch away the person but not the object." The disciple asked, "What does it mean to snatch away the object but not the person?" "In the domain of self-awareness, [one] dwells not on the outer objects but reflects with his mind alone. [Therefore,] the Zen master should snatch away the object but not snatch away the person when the disciple of average capacity comes." "What does it mean to snatch away both the person and the object?" Tsu-yan answered: "In the domain of self-awareness, both the mind and the object are empty, whence, then, comes the delusion? Therefore, the Zen master should snatch away both the person and the object when the well-endowed disciple comes." "What, then, does it mean to snatch away neither the person nor the object?" Tsu-yan said, "In the domain of self-awareness, mind naturally remains as mind and objects as objects. The Zen master therefore takes away neither the object nor the person when the highly gifted person comes?" These explanations may still not be very satisfactory or clear enough to illustrate the riddle of the Four Distinguishments. Nevertheless, they give some clue for unraveling the hidden meaning of the subject in certain respects. Now I shall try to use some Zen stories to explain, with my own interpretations, these methods used on four different levels. A chief monk asked Lin-chi, "Are not the teachings of the three Vehicles and the twelve divisions given for illustrating Buddha-nature?"(30) Lin-chi answered, "The weeds still haven't been cleared out." This reply may be ascribed to the first method, namely, to snatch away the person but save the object. What the monk had said was absolutely correct, for there was nothing whatsoever wrong in his remark, but from the practical Zen viewpoint one would say, "What is the use if one cannot have his Buddha-nature actually unfolded?" ____________________________________ 29. See: 萬法歸心錄 ("Mind--the Source of All Dharma") (建康局出版 1946 年十月廿日 ), pp. 145, 146. 30. See: 鎮州臨濟慧照禪師, p. 3. p.352 As one Zen proverb says: "Much talk about food will never still one's hunger."(31) Or again, "If the teaching of the Buddha cannot actually bring one to direct enlightenment, what difference remains between the worthless weeds and the bulky Suutras?" In this incident, obviously, there was nothing wrong with the remark made by the monk. The fault lay in his lack of a direct experience in praj~naa-truth. This was why Lin-chi said: "The weeds have not been cleared out." The monk then fought back and questioned Lin-chi, "But, in any circumstance can the Buddha cheat us at all!" Lin-chi said to him, "Where is the Buddha!" To a person who has no direct experience of the innate Buddhahood within himself, Buddha is merely a name, a notion or shadow which does not mean anything at all. This is why Lin-chi said mockingly to him, "Where is the Buddha?" A different Koan may even be clearer in illustrating this first method. One day when Lin-chi saw a monk approaching him, he raised the duster. The monk then bowed before him, but Lin-chi beat him. After a while another monk came. Lin-chi again raised his duster. When the monk paid no respect to him Lin-chi beat him also. The paying of respect or the not paying of respect was obviously not the real reason for the beating. The fact was that as soon as Lin-chi saw these two monks he immediately knew what kind of men they were. No matter whether they bowed or not, he beat them both. This shows clearly that what Lin-chi cared for was not the outward action but the inner realization of the person.(32) Now let us see how the second method, "to snatch away the object but save the person," is applied. Once Lin-chi in a sermon said, "Upon the red flesh lump there is a True Man of No Position. He constantly goes in and comes out from the gate of your face. Those who have not seen him should try to see him." A monk then came forward and asked Lin-chi, "What is this True Man of No Position?" Lin-chi immediately descended from his seat and held the arm of the monk and said, "Say it! Say it!" [snatch away the person]. When the monk was just about to answer, Lin-chi released his arm, let him go, and said to him disdainfully, "What kind of dry dung is this True Man of No Position!"(33) This is a typical example of "snatching away the object," i.e., the topic in question or the notion one has in mind, The koan shows how the Zen ___________________________________________ 31. Documentation not available. 32. See: 鎮州臨濟慧照禪師語錄, p. 20. 33. Ibid., pp. 3-4. p.353 master sets the trap with a fancy idea and a strange name and waits for the clinging-bound and the constantly pursuing disciple to fall into it. This kind of surprising shock will not only knock all notions from one's sequential thought but also bring one to the state of the beyond. The third method, "to snatch away both the person and object, is a little deeper than the first two. The following koan is a good example of it. One day Lin-chi was invited by his patron to give a sermon. When he ascended to his seat and was just about to preach, Ma-ku 麻谷 came forward and asked him, "The All-Merciful One (Avalokite`svara) has a thousand arms and a thousand eyes. Which eye is the main eye?" Lin-chi answered him, "The All-Merciful One has one thousand eyes. Which eye is the main eye? Say it! Say it!" Ma-ku then forcibly dragged Lin-chi down from the seat and sat upon the seat himself. Lin-chi then walked very close to Ma-ku and said to him [very humbly], "I do not understand, sir ." Ma-ku was just about to say something, when Lin-chi immediately dragged him down from the seat and again sat on the seat himself. Ma-ku then walked out of the hall. After Ma-ku walked out of the hall Lin-chi also descended from the seat, and no sermon was given.(34) This koan shows how both Lin-chi and Ma-ku tried to "snatch away" each other, and how both the questioner and the answerer had tried to strip off from each other every bit of objective understanding and subjective attitude. The highlight of this koan is found in the last part of the story: after Lin-chi had ascended the seat for the second time, Ma-ku went out of the hall. When Lin-chi saw Ma-ku walk out of the hall, he also descended from the seat, and no sermon was given. If Ma-ku had not walked out, or if Lin-chi had not descended from his seat after Ma-ku's departure but had remained on his seat as the victor, each of them would then have fallen into the trap of the other and would have been caught in the snare-of-clingings. Since it would require too many words to explain this Koan in full detail, I have given here just a clue to its meaning and will let the reader find the explanation for himself. Now let us come to the fourth method, or the fourth domain of Zen understanding, "to snatch away neither the person nor the object." Generally speaking, the koans of this category are somewhat easier to understand. The legendary first Zen koan is a typical example of this method. When Buddha ` held the flower in his hand and smiled but uttered not one word before the congregation, no one in the assembly understood what the Buddha meant. But Mahaaka`syapa smiled quietly at _____________________________________ 34. Ibid., p. 3. p.354 the Buddha as if he fully understood the purport of the Enlightened One. The Buddha then said, "I have the treasure of the unmistakable teachings, the wonderful mind of, the true form without form, the marvelous and subtle dharma, beyond all words, the teaching to be given and transmitted outside of the [regular Buddhist] doctrines. I have now handed it to Mahaaka`syapa."(35) Also, the well-known Zen saying, "Mountain is mountain, water is water; when I am hungry I eat, when I feel sleepy I sleep; I do not search for the Buddha, or look for dharma, yet I always render my obeisance to the Buddha." Another interesting story may also be helpful in understanding the koans which illustrate the fourth domain of Zen understanding. One day Lin-chi was standing in front of the hall. When he saw Huang-po (Lin-chi's Master) coming, he closed his eyes. Huang-po pretended that he was frightened (by Lin-chi) and returned to his room. Then Lin-chi came to his Master's room, bowed down before him, and thanked him.(36) My interpretation of the story is this: When Lin-chi saw his Master coming, he purposely closed his eyes, completely disregarding and rejecting his revered Master--this would snatch away both the person and object. However, Huang-po was even more profound than Lin-chi. He mockingly pretended to be frightened by this blow. Lin-chi's intention was brought out into the open, and his blow thus missed its mark. Surpassed by his Master in profundity and with his understanding sharpened, Lin-chi went to his Master's room to thank him and to pay his respects. If my interpretation of this koan is correct, this story shows the sword-clashing between a sage of the third domain (Lin-chi) and a sage of the fourth domain (Huang-po). The result was the complete defeat of Lin-chi--his eloquence of closing his eyes was utterly overrun by his Master's taunting gesture. What choice did Lin-chi have but to bow down at the feet of his Master and thank him heartily? With the foregoing explanations of Lin-chi's Four Distinguishments, the reader may now have a general idea of how Zen masters express themselves and instruct their disciples at different levels. A full discussion of the Four Distinguishments must await another time. Besides the Four Distinguishments of Lin-chi, Tung-shan's 洞山 (807-863) doctrine of Wu Wei Chn Ch'$ng 五位君臣 (37) is surely the most important subject of Zen Buddhism that one must study before he can hope ___________________________________ 35. See: 景德傳燈錄第一卷 Transmission of The Lamp, Book I, p. 4. 36. See: 鎮州臨濟慧照禪師語錄, p. 26. 37. See: "Five Positions of the King and the Minister," p. 11. p.355 to understand Zen koans in an intelligible and systematic way. Wu Wei Chn Ch'ng is no doubt one of the most intellectual products of Zen, a crowning achievement of Tung-shan and Ts'ao-shan (曹山 ). V Zen is the most difficult, puzzling, and complicated subject in the field of Buddhist study. To understand Zen, even on an intellectual level, one must be well-versed in the philosophy of Mahaayaana Buddhism and also acquainted with the unique traditions of Ch'an (Zen). In addition to these requirements, one must also have some direct Zen experience through actual practice, because, after all, the essence of Zen consists in one's own direct personal experience, not in philosophical speculation. All these factors make Zen extremely difficult to study and to explain. Owing to the complexity and profundity of Zen Buddhism, no one is able to portray it in a flawless manner. To use the Chinese expression, Zen is something round and rolling, slippery and slick (圓滾滑溜 )--ungraspable and indescribable. A perfect picture of Zen is therefore impossible to paint. When one side is brightly lighted, the other side is often obscured; when one aspect is stressed, the other aspect is often distorted. Therefore, a balanced way of introducing Zen becomes all the more desirable and necessary. By introducing Zen Buddhism in a balanced way, I mean to say that all important facets of Zen should be presented in an even and impartial manner. Both the negative and positive aspects should be introduced--its evasiveness as well as its immediacy, its passiveness as well as its dynamics, its intelligibility as well as its unintelligibility, etc.--all should be elaborated. To understand Zen one must study it from all its different angles. This is to say, one must study it historically, psychologically, and philosophically, as well as from its literary, yogic, and spiritual frames of reference. It is only through studying it from all these different angles and levels that one may reach a correct and impartial understanding of Zen. I have tried to comment on some of the important facets of Zen which have been hitherto neglected or distorted, or never introduced, so as to present the balanced explanation which is necessary for real understanding.