FROM LAST ISSUE: Turning back, he steps on and severs the path from which he came.
In the dim starlight, the handle of The Dipper falls. There are few stars, and the starlight is not bright. The mind is not emitting too much light. This is talking about the light of the inherent nature. The starlight can be compared to fire; there is not much fire, just a few sparks. The falling of the handle of The Dipper symbolizes the cutting off of desire. You have no more thoughts of desire. Only when there are no more thoughts of desire can birth and death be ended. If you have desire, you are still within birth and death. If you have no desire, that is Nirvana. The handle of The Dipper falling means desires have been pulled out by their roots. The mind has been subdued. The mind is subdued, and appearances are left behind. This is easy to talk about, but difficult to achieve!
Yunmen expressed his approval. When Master Yunmen heard him speak the verse, he said, “Right, that's just the way it is.” If you can be like that, then it's fine. After two years had passed, Master Yunmen entrusted the Dharma to him. In the year of wuchen (1628) of the Chongzhen reign period of the last emperor in the Ming dynasty, he became the Abbot of Guoqing (Nation's Celebration) Monastery at Dongshan (East Mountain). Next he dwelt at Meishu (Plum Abode), and then he served two terms as Abbot at Xiansheng (Manifest Sage) Monastery. Each term is three years, so two terms is six years. In the year of genchen (1640), he returned to Guoqing Monastery in Dongshan. In the summer of the year of renwu (1642), he manifested a slight illness and fasted for over a week. He didn't eat anything for a week. When he was about to pass away, right before he completed the stillness, he was still talking and laughing as usual. Talking and laughing, he entered the perfect stillness. It seemed as if he were playing a practical joke on everyone. Take a look at that! His body was preserved intact at Xiansheng Monastery. A stupa was built to house his body at Xiansheng Monastery.
A verse in praise says:
Upon hearing the sound of the gong,
He forgot his old ways.
He went in person to the Cloud Door (Yunmen).
Clouds drift by in the blue sky.
The handle of the Dipper glimmers.
The moon follows the night ferry.
Roses grow over the cave entrance,
Concealing it completely.
Upon hearing the sound of the gong, / He forgot his old ways. All his old habits and faults were forgotten. They were all gone. He went in person to the Cloud Door (Yunmen). / Clouds drift by in the blue sky. After a rain, the clouds and fog disperse, and there are clear skies. This means that all ignorance is swept away. There are “no clouds for ten thousand miles, just ten thousand miles of sky. The handle of the Dipper glimmers. The stars in the Dipper are twinkling. The moon follows the night ferry. When you take the boat at night, the moon seems to follow the boat as it travels.
Roses grow over the cave entrance, / Concealing it completely. Roses are a kind of flower. Here, it refers to a variety of climbing rose that grows in the wild. It has thorns. The flowers are very nice. This kind of rose can be found almost everywhere in the mountains. It grows very prolifically. Because it is so luxuriant, although there is a cave, the cave opening is completely concealed by the plant. Nobody can see inside the cave. What does this represent? It means that a cultivator of the Way should not show off. You should always maintain a low profile and play dumb. Don't chase after fame and benefit. Don't try to get yourself a big name and a high position. Don't spend your effort on name and gain, always wanting everyone to know who you are. That's why I always tell you that in the old days, a cultivator only feared that people might find out his name. If someone discovered his name, he would quickly leave and go to another place. If another person in that place found out his name, he would flee again. He didn't want anyone to recognize him. That's the way the cultivators of old were.
Nowadays, what are people like? They only fear that people will not know their names. They think of every possible way to make the news, so that they can have their names broadcast on T.V. or on the radio. Then they feel they have done something earthshaking, that they are really a big star. Actually, this is all unnecessary.
The rose vine has covered up the cave entrance, so the cave is hidden and obscured. You can't see it. If you only want people to know who you are, you are not cultivating, you are just chasing after fame and gain. We should all pay attention to this point. If we are true Buddhists, we definitely don't want to be attached to reputation, attached to position, attached to material things, or have any attachments whatsoever. That's what it means to be “concealed completely.” Don't let people know that you are a cultivator. Don't let people know how special you are. When you have nurtured a great stupidity, that is true ingenuity. When you learn to be like a fool, you will see what's rare. When divine destiny is not pushing you to go forth and teach the beings in a certain region, you should not think about showing off your talent or revealing your outstanding qualities. All of you should be aware of this. The verse is describing how the rose vines have blocked off the opening to an old mountain cave. So it is concealed and cannot be seen. Although the cave is there, nobody can see it. This is how the cultivators of ancient times were.
Another verse says:
He resolved to find out the person he originally was.
Suddenly hearing the gong as the moon was setting in the west,
He let go of mind and was free of hindrances.
Be mindful of Bodhi, and reverse the hearing.
Few are those who cultivate in the frosty cold of the night.
At this point in cultivation, one must not be remiss.
Turning around, he stepped on and broke through
the path of birth and death.
When the handle of The Dipper falls, one breaks into laughter.
Another verse says. Having nothing better to do, I spoke a few lines of empty words, a few lines that are bland and flavorless. He resolved to find out the person he originally was. What was his resolve? He wanted to investigate and find his original face. Suddenly hearing the gong as the moon was setting in the west. When he all of a sudden heard the sound of the gong, it was as if the moon were setting in the West. At that time he had a small awakening. When the moon is about to set, it also means day is about to break.
He let go of mind and was free of hindrances. At that point he put down both body and mind. There was no body or mind, and no external world. When one is empty, all are empty. When one is finished, all are finished. Since there are no hindrances, there is no fear. And so he wasn't afraid of anything. Be mindful of Bodhi, and reverse the hearing. Bring up the thought of Bodhi, and reverse the hearing to listen to your own nature. At this time you should look inside. Do not go searching outside.
Few are those who cultivate in the frosty cold of the night. In the night, when it is bitterly cold, there are few cultivators of the Way. There are few people who still continue to cultivate at that time. At this point in cultivation, one must not be remiss. When cultivators reach this point, they should not falter and hesitate. They should not be indecisive about whether to advance or retreat. This is the crucial point; it is the pivotal point of birth and death. If you take a step forward, you end birth and death. If you take a step back, you fall into the wheel of rebirth.
Turning around, he stepped on and broke through the path of birth and death. Turning back, he stepped through and severed the path from which he came and upon which he was going; he ended birth and death. When the handle of The Dipper falls, one breaks into laughter. When day is about to break, one feels very happy. If you are truly enlightened, you feel very content. You have reached your goal in life; you have accomplished the great deed and ended birth and death. And so you think it's fine; you are all smiles.