The Master was a native of De’an Prefecture in Huguang District. He drew near Dhyana Master Huangbai of Yunmen. He studied with the Venerable Ruibai at Jiezhu (Precept Pearl) Monastery in Shaoxing. There he was selected to be the second-seated one.
One day Master Ruibai instructed the assembly, saying, “In the undefiled world, why do we build bathrooms? The Master replied, “If they are not built, how can the lack of defilement be revealed?” Master Ruibai said, “We all know that you’re the xitang!” He shook his sleeves and walked out. Then he immediately transmitted the robe and whisk to him. The Master caused Dongshan (Dong Mountain) to flourish once more. His virtue resounded throughout the land. The people of Jiangxi all praised him as an ancient Buddha of Dongshan come again. The melodies of Xinfeng are high-pitched, and few are those who can sing in accompaniment. He manifested the stillness in the third month of the year of dinghai (1647) of the shunzhi reign period. His stupa is located below Jinniufeng (Golden Ox Peak).
In the Caodong Sect, there’s a Dhyana Master named Guya (Lonely Cliff), also known as Jingcong (Pure Intelligence). He was a native of De’an Prefecture in Huguang District. He drew near Dhyana Master Huangbai of Yunmen and attended upon him for a long time. After being with that Master, he studied with the Venerable Ruibai at Jiezhu (Precept Pearl) Monastery in Shaoxing. There he was selected to be the second-seated one, the erzuo, who comes right after the shouzuo “senior-seated one.” As the second-seated one, he was also called the xitang “west-hall.” In the Buddha hall and dining hall, the senior-seated one always walks in front, the xitang walks second, the houtang “latter-seated one” walks third, and the tangzhu “hall-master” is in fourth place. These are all leaders of the assembly. He was the leader second to the senior-seated one. He was one step below the senior-seated one. His was one of the forty-eight managerial positions in a large monastery. One day Master Ruibai instructed the assembly. He spoke Dharma for them, saying, “In the undefiled world, why do we build bathrooms?” If this world has no defilement, being neither defiled nor pure, what need is there to build a bathroom? “Undefiled” also means impure. He asked this question because at that time, people tended to have a misconception. What kind of misconception? Most people said, “Since people are Buddhas to begin with, they don’t need to cultivate. They’ll naturally attain Buddhahood.” This is similar to what certain authentic-sounding scholars say nowadays. These scholars think they understand, but they really don’t. They sing a lofty tune, saying, “People are originally Buddhas. There’s no need to cultivate to certify to it. No need to cultivate, and you can become a Buddha! All you have to do is understand the principle, and that’s enough.” If you understand, but you don’t cultivate, how is that understanding? Without going to school, how can you learn to read? How can you study? These people with their misguided views really lead people astray. So Master Ruibai spoke of the undefiled world as an analogy for the original Buddhahood of people. If the world is undefiled, then why is it necessary to build a place to take baths? This is also saying that, although people can enlighten suddenly to the principle, they must gradually cultivate the specific practices. You have to put in a period of hard work. As Dhyana Master Shenxiu said,
The body is the Bodhi tree,
The mind a bright mirror stand.
Time and again brush it clean;
Let no dust alight.
The phrase “time and again brush it clean” refers to taking a bath in the bathtub. “Let no dust alight,” and you’ll be clean.
When Dhyana Master Ruibai asked everyone the question of why we need to build bathrooms, Dhyana Master Jingcong replied, “If they are not built, how can the lack of defilement be revealed?” How can you make the lack of defilement obvious? If you don’t apply some effort, how can you understand your mind and see your nature? Although your mind and nature are inherently there, you need to work at it before you can see them.
At that time, Master Ruibai said, “We all know that you’re the xitang!” His remark had a tone of a rebuke, but at the same time it was also meant to praise him. His answer had obviously been right, but he was deliberately scolding him for speaking out. “Who doesn’t recognize you, the xitang!” His meaning was: “What are you piping up for? Why do you have to put in your two-cents worth?” With deliberate drama, he shook his sleeves and walked out. He wasn’t angry or upset or anything; he was just responding to Master Jingcong. It was like taijiquan (shadow boxing): one makes a move, and the other returns with a move. He was responding in that way to see if Master Jingcong understood, to see if he knew what it was all about. Dhyana Master Ruibai knew that he really understood, that he dared to show him his skill in front of him (Dhyana Master Ruibai), so then he immediately transmitted the robe and whisk to him. These are all standard exchanges in Chan. It wasn’t that anyone was upset with anyone else. They were just creating tricky situations in life to see if everyone would recognize the miraculous wonder within them.
The Master caused Dongshan (Dong Mountain) to flourish once more. His virtue resounded throughout the land. His virtue in the Way shook up the whole country. The common people of Jiangxi all praised him as an ancient Buddha of Dongshan come again. They said he was an ancient Buddha of Dong Mountain come back again. The melodies of Xinfeng are high-pitched, and few are those who can sing in accompaniment. The tunes made in Xinfeng are very high, and very rarely can anyone harmonize with that kind of music. He manifested the stillness in the third month of the year of dinghai (1647) of the shunzhi reign period. His stupa is located below Jinniufeng (Golden Ox Peak).
to be continued