The Lighthouse in the Ocean of Chan


Chapter 7 Selected Koans with Multiple Stages

This important matter originally was no matter. Distinguishing stages only because you are arrogant as if by nature, and would swallow things without chewing, and have fallen into careless generalizations. Indeed this seamless tower has not even a seam; where could the stages be? However, the ancients said, "Transmission through speeches is impossible, and yet the sayings continue." Stageless and yet the stages are not lost. Therefore, from Chapter two to Chapter five, what are the stages within stageless were mentioned. Now this chapter is returning to stageless in having stages. Therefore, frequently there are koans that encompass all four stages in one breath. It could be said as demonstrating clearly stage by stage; it could also be said as completely stageless.

A monk asked Chao Wu, "A fish has not flipped over the Dragon Gate, how?" Chao replied, "Cultivate nature in deep pool." This belongs to the first stage of entrance. Asked again, "Having Flipped over, how?" Replied, "Once up in the sky, all other kinds have difficulty catching up." This belongs to the second stage of exit. Asked again, "After having ascended, how?" "The cloud of compassion covers all, moisturizing the whole universe." This belongs to the third stage of use. Asked again, "Is there still any one not moisturized or not?" "A straight tree without branches supports the sun." This belongs to the fourth stage of finish. The point is to see through the four stages in one glance; how could it be allowed to go through several stages.

A monk asked Yuan An about the intention of Bodhidharma's coming from the west. Yuan said, "The rustling bamboo facing the porch, having experienced frost no longer cold by itself." Asked again, also continued it by saying, "Only the noise of wind beating is heard, not knowing how many thousand poles are there." In this poem there are in sequence the four stages. 'Facing the porch,' the stage of entrance; 'no longer cold by itself,' the stage of exit; 'beating noise becomes interesting,' belongs to the stage of use; 'not knowing,' belongs to the stage of finish. All are about the intention of coming from the west, and yet there are four stages of various depths.

The stanza on the original teacher Sakyamuni Buddha's transmission of the Dharma to Mahakasyapa reads:

Dharmas are originally dharmas of no dharma, (entrance)
Dharmas of no dharma are also dharmas. (exit)
Now while transmitting no dharma, (use)
Has dharma after dharma ever been dharma? (finish)

Nan Quan, Ma Gu and Gui Zong went to pay respects to the National Master Nan Yang. Nan Quan drew a circle on the road and said, "If it could be said, then go." Gui Zong sat in his circle, this belongs to the first stage of entrance. Ma Gu made a curtsey, which belongs to the third stage of use. Nan Quan said, "As such, then not going," which belongs to the second stage of exit. Gui Zong said, "What kind of mental activity is this?" Nan Quan thereupon called off the trip, which belongs to the fourth stage of finish.

The koan of practitioner Grandma Ling's bitter crying also contains several stages; for details please look into Chapter Five. Only very few possessed the view of the finish stage; except Zhao Zhou, almost all were among the bitter cry of Grandma Ling. What Grandma asked as "The sentence that cannot be spoken with all the efforts, to whom shall it still be told?" was directly questioning at the finish stage. What Fu Bei answered as "having no superfluous speech" intended at the second stage of exit; therefore, Grandma retorted by saying: "This one does not say like this." Then Fu Bei fell into her trap, hence added an asking back. Had he directly finished it, covered ears and exited, would there be any need to retort? Grandma saw him retorting, hence knew that he knew only the exit but not the finish. Therefore, Grandma cried, "In the sky there is even more worries added." Nan Quan heard it, thereupon said, "Fu Bei was defeated by the old grandma." Grandma then said, "Teacher Wang is still lacking in devices," mocking him for, even knowing Fu Bei fell into the second stage, being still unable to redirect Fu Bei to the third or fourth stage. That is the reason for saying that he was still lacking in devices. Cheng Yi asked her, "How is it that Nan Quan was still lacking in devices?" Grandma then wailed, "How sad! How painful!" This was the device of Grandma, weeping over his stalemate in the second stage. Grandma then asked Cheng Yi again, "Comprehend?" Cheng Yi folded his palms together and retreated, showing clearly that it was not comprehended. Therefore, Grandma straightway reprimanded, "Chan practitioners at their wits' end, as sesame, as millet." It was not only Cheng Yi. Cheng Yi mentioned it to Zhao Zhou, Zhao Zhou said, "If I see this stinking old woman, I will raise questions to mute her." Cheng Yi asked, "How to ask?" Zhao Zhou struck him, saying, "This fellow at his wits' end, not to strike but wait for when?" This was Zhao Zhou's device, the third stage of use. Practitioner Grandma Ling still had the stage of finish. She was only afraid that Zhao Zhou did not know about it, therefore, upon hearing this, she said, "Zhao Zhou seems to deserve a clubbing from my hand." Zhao Zhou heard it, also cried, "How sad! How painful!" This was because Zhao Zhou had already known the fourth stage of finish; practitioner Grandma Ling's club still belonged to the third stage, therefore there is the need to cry bitterly over her inability to finish the functioning of the third stage. However, practitioner Grandma Ling had long since known the finish, therefore, finally praised Zhao Zhou by saying, "Zhao Zhou's eye emits lights that shine through the four great continents." What was said to be shining through the four great continents is no different from explaining that the worlds of all four stories of this lighthouse had been shone through. Zhao Zhou sent someone to ask, "How is Zhao Zhou's eye?" Grandma raised a fist. Zhao Zhou heard it, praised by the gatha below:

Right at the opportunity, directly bring it up to the face;
To face it directly, right at the opportunity, is fast.
In reply to you, practitioner Grandma Ling:
What gain or loss in the crying?

This clearly expressed the fourth stage of finish. Grandma answered by the gatha below:

Teacher has comprehended the crying;
Who else would know its being comprehended?
At that time in the country of Magadha,
Almost lost the opportunity before the eyes.

This sentence almost included the act of Mahakasyapa smiling among what would be sad and painful. However, Dharma connections are mostly exemplified in the use stage. Had it been finished straightway, there would not have emerged the causal conditions of the great path of the Chan School. Although this would be no harm done to the original nature of Chan, as to the causal conditions in the transmission of the Dharma, there were those that had been inevitable. Therefore, all four stags are at one stage, and one stage might as well be divided into four stages. Nevertheless, finally must return to the fourth stage for it to be the orthodox school of Patriarch Chan.

Yang Shan asked, "When this moon is pointed, where has the round form gone? When round, where has the pointed form gone?" Chang Zi Kuang replied, "When pointed, the round form hides. When round, the pointed form is present." Jian says, "This reply is only at the first stage of entrance." Yun Yan said, "When pointed, the round form is present. When round, there is no pointed form." Jian says, "This reply also did not exit the first stage." Dao Wu said, "When pointed, also not pointed. When round, also not round." Jian says, "This reply is at the second stage of exit." Jian says otherwise, "When pointed, there is round in the pointed. When round, there is pointed in the round. Ultimately pointed and round hide; there is neither seeing nor sky." The first two sentences belong to the third stage of use, and the last two, the fourth stage of finish.

Pu Hua once said, "Comes bright side, strike. Comes dark side, strike. Come from all directions, strike like a cyclone. Come from empty sky, strike with stilts." People asked, "Always not coming, how to strike?" Pu said, "Tomorrow in Great Compassion Yard there will be a feast." Jian says, "Striking bright and dark sides, entrance of the first stage. Striking all directions, use of the third stage. Striking the empty sky: coarse strike, exit of the second stage; fine strike, finish of the fourth stage. Feast in Great Compassion Yard still belongs to the use of the third stage."

There is another point that one should know. One koan might as well contain several stages, and each stage could also contain the remaining three stages. For instance, the stage of entrance contains its exit, use and finish. The stage of exit contains its entrance, use and finish. Likewise for the stages of use and finish respectively. The various stages are interconnected in a chain, connecting and covering one another in sequence. There is no time to go into details here. Readers may ponder further on their own.

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