Dogen’s certainty

Spoken by Eihei Dogen (1200-1255) at the beginning of a summer retreat. Here the contents of this fragment:

Once when Zikong was at Tiantong monastery in Siming at the beginning of a summer retreat he said, “For people in meditation the most important thing is that the nostrils be right; then the eyes must be thoroughly clear.

Then it’s important to realize the source and understand the explanation, and after that capability and its actualization are equally realized – only then can you enter among enlightened ones and demons as well, where oneself and others succeed together at once.”

What does this mean?

When the nostrils are right, everything is right. It is like a man in a house; if the master is upright, his family naturally influenced. But how can you get your nostrils straight?

An ancient sage said: “Certainty does not drift into a second thought; only therein you can enter the gate to our school.”

(from the Record of Sayings of Zen Master Dogen of Eihei;
source: Clearly, Thomas: Timeless spring; A Soto Zen Anthology. New York 1980, p. 100)


Linji’s freedom

“If you want to be free to live or to die, to go or to stay as you would put on or take off clothes, then right now recognize the one listening to my discourse, the one who has no form, no characteristics, no root, no source, no dwelling place, and yet is bright and vigorous. Of all his various responsive activities, none leaves any traces.

Followers of the Way, don’t acknowledge this illusory companion, your body – sooner or later it will return to impermanence. What is it you seek in this world that you think will bring you emancipation? You hunt about for a mouthful to eat and while away time patching your robe. You should be searching for a good teacher!

Don’t just drift along pursuing comfort. Value every second. Each successive thought-moment passes quickly away. The grosser part of you is at the mercy of [the four elements]: earth, water, fire, and wind; the subtler part of you is at the mercy of the four phases: birth, being, decay, and death.

Followers of the Way, you must right now apprehend the state in which the four elements are formless, so that you may avoid being buffeted about by circumstances.”

Someone asked, “What is the state in which the four elements are formless?”
The master said, “An instant of doubt in your mind and you’re obstructed by earth; an instant of lust in your mind and you’re drowned by water; an instant of anger in your mind and you’re scorched by fire; an instant of joy in your mind and you’re blown about by wind. Gain such discernment as this, and you’re not turned this way and that by circumstances.”

(Sasaki, Ruth Fuller; ed. Kirchner, Thomas:
The record of Linji. Honolulu 2009, p. 198-201)


Yunmen’s commitment

My brothers, if there is one who has attained it, he passes his days in conformity with the ordinary. If you have not yet attained it, you must at any price avoid pretending that you have. You must not waste your time, and you need very much to pay close attention!

The old men definitely had some word-creepers which could be of help. For instance my teacher Xuefeng said: ‘The whole world is nothing but you’. Try to get a firm hold on the meaning of this saying, pondering it from all angles – and after days or years an entrance will open up by itself!

You absolutely must fix your eyeballs directly on this! If you have not yet found any clue but have met an undisguised skillful master who goes after you like a dog that bites a boar, and who doesn’t care about his own life and won’t shy away from going through mud and water for you, and if he has something good for chewing: then blink your eyes and raise your eyebrows, hang your bowl bag high on the wall, and for ten or twenty years exert yourself to the utmost!

You must see for yourself! There is nobody to stand in for you, and time does not wait for anyone; one day you’ll be about to pass away and your gaze will fall on the earth. Big words won’t help you much there, you windbags!

App, Urs (vert.): Master Yunmen; from the record of the Chan Teacher “Gate of the Clouds”.
New York 1994, p. 108-109


Yantou’s treasure

As soon as he arrived at master Te Shan’s place, Hsueh Feng asked him, “Does this student [Hsueh Feng] have any share in this matter handed down from antiquity as the fundamental vehicle?”
Te Shan struck him a blow and said, “What are you saying?”
Because of this, Hsueh Feng had an insight.

Later Hsueh Feng told Yen T’ou, “When Te Shan hit me, it was like the bottom falling out of a bucket.”
Yen T’ou shouted and said, “Haven’t you heard it said that what comes in through the front gate isn’t the family treasure? You must let it flow out from your own breast to cover heaven and earth; then you’ll have some small portion of realization.”
Suddenly Hsueh Feng was greatly enlightened; he bowed and said to Yen T’ou, “Elder brother, today I have finally attained the Path.”

Cleary, Thomas & Cleary J.C.: The Blue Cliff Record.
Boston 1992, p. 32-33


Dongshan’s flame

When Shenshan had picked up a needle to mend clothes, Master Dongshan asked, “What are you doing?”
“Mending,” answered Shenshan.
“In what way do you mend?” asked the Master.
“One stitch is like the next,” said Shenshan.
“We’ve been traveling together for twenty years, and you can still say such a thing! How can there be such craftiness?” said the Master.
“How then does the venerable monk mend?” asked Shenshan.
“Just as though the entire earth were spewing flames” replied the Master.

Powell, William F.: The record of Tung-shan.
Honolulu 1986, p. 35