At the Bridge for Gazing at Immortals, it's not known whether one gazes at the immortal Huang Shi Gong [who gave the book to Zhang Liang], at Lü Dongbin, or at Han Zhongli. "Seeking the fundamental Way" refers to seeking the basic path of cultivation. Venerable Yi asked him, "Have you tried that before? And did you attain it?" This question was deliberately posed in a way that you could not fathom its meaning. The Master said, "Yesterday I spent six cents of silver and obtained a copy of
Dark Sand Chronicles." He had been asked whether he had ever tried seeking the Way on Gazing at Immortals Bridge and whether he had attained it, and he answered that he had spent six cents of silver to buy a book called
Dark Sand Chronicles.
Venerable Yi said, "How can you avoid receiving thirty whacks before boarding the boat? Before you board the boat, you get thirty whacks, and once you get on, you get another thirty whacks. What will you do? How can you avoid those thirty whacks?"
The Master said, "What do you say?" There are two meanings here. "What do you say?" and "What do you want me to say?" It was an ambiguous statement. This brings to mind the story of Emperor Chenghua of the Ming Dynasty, who once disguised himself as a civilian and went out to see the sights. When it started raining, he went into a house to avoid the rain. Inside the house he saw a scholar reading his books aloud and felt very happy, so he composed the first line of a couplet:
The sound of the wind, the sound of the rain,
the sound of reading—every sound penetrates the ear.
The word "sound" appears five times in this line. Without even thinking, the scholar came up with a matching line:
The affairs of the family, the affairs of the country,
the affairs of the world—all affairs concern my mind.
When Emperor Chenghua heard that, he thought, "This scholar is not bad. He cares about his country." And then he left. As he was leaving, the scholar, Lin Dang, prepared to see him off. The Emperor stepped across the threshold with one foot and asked Lin Dang, "Would you say that I am leaving or returning? Am I going out or coming in?" If he answered "going out," he could step inside. If he answered, "coming in," he could go out. So the question was a verbal challenge, similar to the Master's question, "What do you say?"
What did Lin Dang do? He stood up to see the Emperor off, and didn't answer the question. Instead, he asked, "Would you say that I am seeing you off or not?" Ha! The Emperor didn't know what to say either! If he said he was seeing him off, he could stop seeing him off. If he said he was not seeing him off, he could see him off. It was a question in the same vein. Emperor Chenghua was delighted. He returned to the palace, and the next day he chose Lin Dang to become his official. With that one reply to a single question, he became a high official. His reply was similar to the question here, "What do you say?" He could say something, and he could also say nothing.
The Venerable Yi appreciated his capacity. Venerable Sanyi very much approved of Dhyana Master Sanji's ability. One was called Sanyi, and the other was called Sanji ["San" means "three"]. And so he said to him, "Among the elders, you are one who escaped the net. You're a fish that escaped through a hole in the fish net." He first dwelled at Qingliang Monastery in Wuxing. In the winter of the year of gengzi  he manifested the stillness. His disciples built a stupa for him behind the nunnery at Yincui.
A verse in praise says:
One sentence startled everyone and caused an uproar at Jinxi.
He then entered Cloud Gate, where the lions spat and panted.
Brightly did the fire burn in the stove;
Stern and solemn was his style.
The sun of wisdom rose from behind the peaks of Clear and Cool.
One sentence startled everyone and caused an uproar at Jinxi. Everyone was startled that a monk had made that statement, "Yingying was not as winsome as the Red Lady." What an interesting sentence! All the Chan meditators at Jinxi Monastery thought, "That monk is talking romance!"
He then entered Cloud Gate. He went to Yunmen ('Cloud Gate'), where Dhyana Master Miyun was.
Where the lions spat and panted. Everything fell into place for him, and he obtained a response in the Way. It was a good situation.
Brightly did the fire burn in the stove. His speaking of Dharma to teach and transform living beings was like a great Dharma banquet laid out for all.
Stern and solemn was his style. His tradition was one of strict rules and solemn dignity.
The sun of wisdom rose from behind the peaks of Clear and Cool. It was like the break of dawn at Qingliang Mountain.
Another verse says:
A great man's actions are not understood by the crowd.
He took adversities in stride, but few people knew.
Like tumultous billows on the Yangtze River.
Our afflictions bubble and boil, spreading quickly.
The boatman, Jiashan, and winsome Red Lady.
Chaofu, Xuyou, and pitiable Green Pearl.
Dhyana Master Sanji had the eye of purity.
Distinguishing right from wrong, he was a teacher of people rind gods.
A great man's actions are not understood by the crowd. Most people cannot fathom the actions of a superior person. It's not easy for them to recognize what he's all about.
He took adversities in stride, but few people knew. No matter what it was, he could take it in stride. He never complained to heaven or blamed others.
Like tumultous billows on the Yangtze River. Being in this world is like being tossed and turned on the waves of the Yangtze.
Our afflictions bubble and boil, spreading quickly. The afflictions and thoughts in our mind bubble and seethe, countless in number.
The boatman, Jiashan, and winsome Red Lady. Dhyana Master Sanji continued the verse of the boatman's reply to Jiashan, saying, "Yingying was not as winsome as the Red Lady." His answer startled everyone.
Chaofu, Xuyou, and pitiable Green Pearl. Chaofu and Xuyou were two lofty individuals. When Emperor Yao [c. 2356 B.C. ] tried to offer the throne to Chaofu, Chaofu felt his ears had been dirtied and went to the stream to wash them out. Xuyou happened to be watering his ox nearby and asked why Chaofu was washing his ears. Chaofu said, "Emperor Yao just came and tried to pass the kingdom to me. I feel my ears have been tainted and so I'm washing them." Xuyou said, "If you wash your ears here, the water will be dirty. My ox can't drink this dirty water." He led his ox upstream. That's how lofty he was! He didn't even want his ox to be contaminated.
Green Pearl (Lüzhu) was Shi Chong's favorite concubine. When another man tried to win her over, she was driven to jump off a tower to her death. It wasn't necessarily proving that she was faithful till death; she was pressured until she had no other choice. She died because her blessings were exhausted.
Dhyana Master Sanji had the eye of purity. He had the pure wisdom eye, which has no form or appearance.
Distinguishing right from wrong, he was a teacher of people and gods. Endowed with the ability to tell right from wrong, he was clear on the facts and principles, and thus served as guiding "eyes" for humans and gods.