The Lighthouse in the Ocean of Chan


The Opening Talk

Who told you to open this book? What are you lacking of? You should be given thirty blows even before opening it. If you have taken it up on yourself already, and throw up upon encountering it, then you would be spared the shout that would deafen you for three months. Even though mentioning the koans, understand the sentence after Nirvana, the ultimate matter is still not there. Thirty blows, receive them yourself.

Although from very ancient times, blows and shouts have helped accomplish some, and yet already have escaped some. Having been adrift all this time, it is only right to let them attain an entrance. The timid ones, of course, need to be saved. But even more so, the arrogant ones, rampant today, need to be saved. This is the motive behind the long chattering of this book.

This man feels ashamed that, having fooled around inside Buddha Gate for twenty, thirty years, including fifteen years in solitary retreat, there is no traces of merit of realization to offer the readers. What has been recognized are some common infirmities of various Buddhist schools. The Pure Land School tends to over simplify, and I plan to write a thesis to rectify it. The Esoteric School is open to false pretension. To amend this, I had written A Treatise on Tantric Initiations which was then published in Hong Kong thanks to the financial support by Upasaka Li Shi Hua. In the Chan School, the common infirmity is the madcap behavior of its followers. It is for healing this kind of sickness that I have written this book. This is how it came to be written:

In Chinese history, the Tang Dynasty was the golden age of the Chan School. Each of the school's five sects was in great prosperity during this period. Be it Lin Ji's mysterious essentials, Cao Dong's monarch and subjects, Gui Yang's entity and use, Yun Men's three passes, or Fa Yan's six forms, all are based on the Hinayana teaching of renunciation. At that time there were still many Buddhists who studied the four Agamas. Chan Masters usually spent thirty to forty years staying on some mountain after they had comprehended. Therefore, there were many accomplished great virtuous masters. Since the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, although there were still great virtuous masters such as Zhong Feng, Chu Shi, Zi Bo, Han Shan, Tian Tong, and Yu Lin, nevertheless, they either combined doctrinal studies or mixed with the Pure Land practices, and had become the waning of a strong crossbow. A number of arrogant people, pretending to be Bodhisattvas, wore masks, all became refugee celebrities, and laughingstocks as cited in the book "North Mountain." Since they had no merit of realization, they showed off through mouth in vain. In the past, stayed on cliffs and lived in caves; now tea-houses and bars. In the past, the four Agamas were revered; now the Tripitaka is scolded. In the past, real wisdom was not revealed; now arrogant intelligence is ever conspicuous. Therefore, those who have accomplished virtue are few, while those who are committing sins are many. To counter this illness, there is the need to advocate renunciation and to indicate the measure of realization. This book is written in accordance with this principle.

Ever since Shi Dao Yuan's Jing De Chuan Deng Lu (Jing De Record of the Transmission of the Lamp), there have been Li Zun Xu's Tian Sheng Guang Deng Lu (Tian Sheng Extensive Record of the Lamp), Shi Wei Pai's Jian Zhong Jing Guo Xu Deng Lu (Jian Zhong Jing Guo Continuing Record of the Lamp), Shi Dao Ming's Lian Deng Hui Yao (Collected Essentials of Joint Lamps), and Shi Zheng Shou's Jia Tai Pu Deng Lu (Jia Tai General Record of the Lamp). Thereafter, in the Song Dynasty, Shi Pu Ji took these five books of the Lamp, deleted redundant excess, to form the book Wu Deng Hui Yuan (Collected Essentials of the Five Lamps). In the Ming Dynasty, Fei Yin, Tong Rong, et al., jointly compiled the book Wu Deng Yan Tong (Precise Lineages of the Five Lamps), correcting the errors in the previous five "lamp" books, to ensure that the Dharma lineages are not in disorder. The seven books mentioned above were all organized in accordance with the tree of lineages. The various koans associated with each teacher were gathered together at his position in the tree of lineages. Under one teacher, koans are displayed as a mixture, without order or sequence. Now that the intention is to advocate the measure of realization, this kind of usual arrangement is not suitable. Therefore, this book has created a new classification to arrange koans according to the measure of realization as indicated by the replies therein, and, at each stage, to gather all koans of the same level from various teachers. Irrespective of the period, system, family, and school, all were to be chosen and classified according to the depth of the measure of realization. According to the measure of realization, I arranged the koans in an order that pleased me. The koans selected in this book should not be said to be readily available from the ancients. Now they are arranged to my liking, and yet this should not be said to be definitely my interpretations.

It was the style of the patriarchs never to talk about the measure of realization, supernormal powers, fruitful positions, grounds and paths. Indeed, the so-called "separate transmission outside the doctrines" is no different from saying that, besides conceptual teachings of words, there is another transmission of the measure of realization through teachings in action. Even though not said, the sound is as loud as thunders; the ancients had praised like this before. Since the ancients did not say, therefore, the measure of realization is obscure and unknown. It may be recalled that the Sixth Patriarch once asked Chan teacher Huai Rang of Nan Yue, "Still through practice and attainment or not?" Rang replied, "Polluted could not be; practice and attainment could not be done without." The Sixth Patriarch although approved only his "polluted could not be," and yet also did not disapprove as to "practice and attainment could not be done without." The arrogant people of later generations have taken the opportunity to yell arbitrarily. Therefore, now there is the necessity to advocate the measure of realization in order to cure arrogance. As to the ancients' criteria for the measure of realization, there was the so-called "the first pass, the second pass and the final pass." Upasaka Yuan Ming of Qing Dynasty analyzed these three passes as follows: "Recognize the seven feet to be no more than the four Elements, thoroughly clear, without wearing a thread; such is the first pass. After having broken through this pass, then realizing that mountain still mountain, water still water, there is not a thing which is not my body, not a thing which is my self, form and emptiness without hindrance, the great at ease is attained; such is the breaking through of the second pass. Home is path, awareness is silence, entity is it and function is it, ignorant attachments naturally fade and fall; such is the trampling down of the final sturdy pass." Upasaka Huang Su Fang said, "To die a great death once is the first pass. To realize the original is the second pass. To comprehend clearly all forms of dharmas is the third pass." I consider all these analyses as doctrinal matters and have nothing to do with the koans. The measure of realization as exhibited in the koans should not be determined in accordance with doctrinal teachings, rather it should be determined according to the koans themselves. More than a decade ago, while pondering Chan and glancing the koans, I discovered four stages of attainment: The first stage is to attain an entrance. The second is to know an exit. The third is to attain a use. The fourth is to know a finish. These four words: entrance, exit, use, and finish, although were discovered by me, and yet were ready-made in the koans, but not copied from the doctrinal teachings. In the mean while, through my experiences in Chan pondering, I have a definite view on these four stages, without wavering in the least. As to the measure of realization, I also have had a little experience; for details please see Chapter Nine, "Chan Attainment in Terms of the Measure of Realization," of this book. However, at that time I did not dare to reveal it to the world. Since I came to India to do retreat, I had borrowed the Jing De Chuan Deng Lu (Jing De Record of the Transmission of the Lamp) from the book collection of Mr. Zhang Xiang Cheng. While reviewing this book during my rest periods, to common arrogant people I again felt great compassion and pity. I would, in accordance with these four stages of the measure of realization, write a book on Chan to rescue them. Therefore, I prayed to Bodhidharma and the patriarchs of the East, asking for their permission. In the light of Samadhi, I saw the four characters "Ma Zu Xin Gan" (Ma Zu's Heart Moved), as inscribed on the first page of this book. Therefore, I made up my mind to use the period after 5 p.m. and before dinner, about half an hour, everyday to work on this book. After seven years this book has been completely written.

At first, based on Jing De Chuan Deng Lu (Jing De Record of the Transmission of the Lamp), a "Record of General Selection of Koans" (1) was compiled. It might sound strange that many patriarchs who should be chosen appeared in Samadhi, light or dream in the previous day. These patriarchs all rejoiced in being selected. Staying here as a guest, there were not many books on Chan, only six hundred odd koans were selected. Each koan was given a name, such as "Kasyapa Smiling with a Flower," and a sequential number. Later in the other selections compiled the koans were referred to only by their numbers, without writing out the koan, and thereby avoided much redundancy.

I, in order to advocate renunciation, specifically selected koans to form a "Record of Examples of Renunciation of Virtuous Ancients" (2), and a "Selection of Admonitions of Virtuous Ancients" (3). These two collections are the references for Chapter One, "Redundant Talks Spoken First," of this book.

From the previous "Record of General Selection of Koans," based on the measure of realization at the four stages, a "Record of Classification of Koans at the Four Stages" (4) was written. This is the basis for the first sections in Chapters Two to Five in this book, which bears the same section name, "Selected Disclosures and Koans Relative to the Present Stage."

Then, based on koans with same names and yet various answers as provided by different patriarchs, and thus representing the measure of realization at different stages, I compiled a "Record for Comparison of Same Koans at Different Stages" (5). This serves as the basis for, "Selected Koans with Different-Stage Answers," i.e., the third sections of Chapters Two to Four and the second section of Chapter Five of this book.

Thereafter, based on koans containing the measure of realization at all four stages, another "Record of Koans with Multiple Stages" (6) was compiled. This is the basis for Chapter Seven of this book. Although this chapter contains not many koans, it serves to verify the principle that, while in no division into stages, there is a division of stages, and the division into stages is without division.

Again based on various patriarchs' comments on Chan infirmities, compiled a "Record of Sayings on Chan Infirmities" (7). This is the basis for Chapter Eight of this book. From these infirmities, the positive aspect of the measure of realization may be reflected.

I have advocated the measure of realization, and yet it remains vague in the koans. Simply by classifying into four stages to indicate variations in depth, the concrete measure of realization therein still remain obscure, therefore, based on various patriarchs' signs of liberation through death that are supported by genuine evidences, again compiled a "Record of Signs of Liberation through Death" (8). This is the basis for the third section of Chapter Nine of this book. From the readers' point of view, now there is only one book; while recalling its process of compilation, this one book has indeed included the eight records mentioned above.

Finally, according to the ancients' precedent of providing a frank and sincere consultation, I wrote the final Chapter Ten, entitled "A Frank and Sincere Talk on Chan," which consists of important words of experiences and keen advices from my heart. After having read this opening talk, the reader may read Chapter Ten first, and thereby obtain a general outline of this book, and an understanding of the essence of the measure of realization at the four stages. Thereafter, glance through chapters one to nine, then would realize that the criteria of the four stages as relied upon in this work, indeed hits on the essential point of the ancients' koans.

I should announce here at the close of this opening talk that, this example once set, in the future there would inevitably be others to classify and comment on koans according to the measure of realization. People's doing good, who would be less than me? I, of course, would rejoice and accept in good faith. Nevertheless, what should be paid attention to is that, "literary works are matters of ages; gain or loss is known in the mind," talks about the measure of realization could only be touched upon by experienced people. Although this man has not attained great accomplishment, regarding the measure of realization, has had a little experiences. Furthermore, prior to writing, had obtained permission of Ma Zu. From now on, if someone makes another compilation, hope that also obtains the two conditions mentioned above: First is personal experiences, second is permission of patriarchs. If these two conditions are not met, definitely should not hastily do it; causing later generations to accuse me as the one who started an evil precedent, would be beyond my undertaking. If the measure of realization is even deeper than the ancients and the contemporaries, and the criteria proposed are in thorough agreement with the intentions of the ancients' koans, then this man could not but be grateful in tears, to read in reverence, and to act in accordance.

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