The Master's name is Hong . His style name is Shan Yu. The son of Pan in Zheyao, Master Hong Neng had been sickly since childhood; thus he desired to understand birth and death. When he reached the age of 33, he read the Sayings of Gao Feng, which led him to pay respects to a teacher and leave home as a monk. He first studied under Master Rui Guang Che, who instructed him to investigate the koan (topic) of the bamboo comb. For forty-five days he did not lay down on his mat. After experiencing an awakening, he presented a verse, "I've tread upon and turned over the earth and heavenly flowers."
Master Rui asked, "Where is it that you've tread and overturned?"Master Hong Neng gave a shout. Master Rui exclaimed, "Ghost of heavenly flowers!"
The Master said, "Does one dare to repeat these words?"
Master Rui responded, "To repeat them, you must bow three times." Master Hong Neng then threw back his sleeve and left. He then sought refuge with High Master Pu Ti Mi. Having penetrated the principles of this school, he received the seal of approval. He first stayed at Jing Hui, then headed south for Jiang Pu. Left-home people and laypeople all admired and followed him, thus inviting him to stay at Du Fong. Later on, he rested at Yang Gu An, where he died at the age of 67. A stupa housing his entire body was built to the left of Yang Gu.
This Dhyana Master is also a Patriarch in the 71st generation of the Caodong School.
The Master's name is Hong Neng. His style name is Shan Yu. The son of Pan in Zheyao, Master Hong Neng had been sickly since childhood. His family name is Pan. He was often sick while young; due to his pain, he felt the urgency of impermanence. The cycle of birth and death was the greatest concern for him.
Thus he desired to understand birth and death. Therefore he wanted to understand this issue of birth and death.
When he reached the age of thirty-three, the year that he turned thirty-three, he read the
Sayings of Gao Feng. He read the record of sayings by Dhyana Master Gao Feng. He was slightly awakened by this book of sayings,
which led him to pay respects to a teacher and leave home as a monk. He first studied under Master Rui Guang Che. Master Hong Neng initially went and sought out Rui Guang Che,
who instructed him to investigate the koan of the bamboo comb. Dhyana Master Rui Guang Che ordered him to investigate a huatou. There are many koans; his was to investigate the koan of a bamboo comb.
Some people investigate the koan, "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" Some contemplate that all objects in the world will vanish; they all are created, exist, decompose, and become empty. There is nothing that doesn't deteriorate, disappear and end. These meditators examine the koan, "What does not end?" In addition, there is the koan, "What is my original face before my parents gave birth to me?" I have this body after my parents gave birth to me, but what was I like before I was born? Since
huatou in Chinese means the beginning of words, you should investigate the start of this koan, rather than the tail end of this koan. The tail of the koan is the answer someone else has already uttered, the meaning of which you understand. The beginning of these words is when you don't have the answer to this koan, but you want to understand the koan's origin, the space where your mind pauses to ponder without a verbal answer.
For example, "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" Suppose you say, "I am." If you are mindful of the Buddha, then are you still mindful of the Buddha after you die? Who is being mindful after you die?
It's important to investigate this who. This word
who is also a false thought, but you use this one false thought to arrest all other false thoughts, similar to applying a venom in order to counteract other toxins. Comparably, although reciting the Buddha's name is a false thought, you may utilize the one thought of the Buddha's name to stop all other thoughts. As a result, you strap down your monkey mind and wild horse thought; your mind quits running wild. Therefore we must investigate koans. People strike up false thoughts from morning to night; our thinking is unfocused. When we lack concentration, we are unwise and cannot truly understand. Once you concentrate your mind, then your true wisdom appears. So this dharma door of investigating koans is for you to not think about anything else. This master investigated the koan of "How do you chop down bamboo?"
For forty-five days he never touched the mat. He often sat and meditated, at times for as long as forty-five days, including never lying down to sleep.
After experiencing an awakening, upon becoming enlightened,
he presented a verse: "I've tread upon and turned over the earth and heavenly flowers." Essentially, this line means that he has overturned the entire earth, and the flowers in the heavens are also gone.
Master Rui asked, "Where is it that you've tread and overturned?" Master Rui tried to test Master Hong Neng, fearing that he was caught in the superficialities of intellectual Zen or had comprehended some principles of emptiness without true understanding. So Master Rui asked, "Where is it that you've walked and overturned?"
Master Hong Neng gave a shout. He hollered loudly. This is true insanity.
Master Rui exclaimed, "Ghost of heavenly flowers!" Master Rui said that the Master was just talking senselessly or engaging in ghostly chatter, so it wasn't real.
"Does one dare to repeat these words?" He asked Master Rui if one dares to repeat these words. He didn't say who was to repeat these words, whether it was supposed to be Master Hong Neng repeating the line about treading and turning over the earth and heavenly flowers, or Master Rui repeating his question, "Where is it that you've tread and overturned?" Therefore, "Do you dare to repeat these words?" is also a line meant to confuse you. It's unclear whether it's Master Rui or Master Hong Neng who is to repeat his words. It could be "Do you dare to say these words?" or "Do I dare to say these words?"
Master Rui said, "To repeat them, you must bow three times." Whether you want me to say it again or you yourself will say it again—this still leaves room for interpretation—then you must prostrate three times.
Master Hong Neng then threw back his sleeve and left. He ignored Master Rui and departed.
He then sought refuge with High Master Pu Ti Mi. He proceeded to High Master Pu Ti Mi's place.
Having penetrated the principles of this school, including a thorough investigation of the five positions and other procedures of the Caodong School,
he received the seal of approval. High Master Pu Ti Mi then transmitted the dharma to him and certified that he had become enlightened.
He first stayed at Jing Hui. At first he was the Abbot in the Jing Hui area,
then headed south for Jiang Pu. Then he went to Jiang Pu in the south, probably around Nanjing.
Cultivators and laypeople all admired and followed him. Both left-home and at-home cultivators pursued him. They revered and admired him,
thus inviting him to stay at Du Fong. His followers requested that he become the Abbot of Du Fong.
Later on, he rested at Yang Gu An. Later he retired to Yang Gu An,
where he died at the age of 67. He lived until the age of 67.
His entire body was buried to the left of Yang Gu.
He was buried to the left of Yang Gu.
To be continued