Hearing a Venerable Elder, a seasoned cultivator; a senior-seated monk with much learning, experience, and know-how in cultivation; an elder monk,
discuss the meditation topic of whether or not a dog has a Buddha nature, his doubts were thoroughly resolved. All his doubts were obliterated. They vanished without a trace, and he had no more doubts regarding anyone. Thereupon,
he visited and bowed to the Venerable Tandu Yi, who said, "How does the Buddhadharma of Jiangnan in recent times compare with here?" He was making casual conversation: "You've come from Jiangnan ("South of the Yangtze River"). How does the Buddhadharma there compare with that on the north side of the Yangtze?"
The Master replied, "I left Yangzhou on the twenty-sixth of the past month." His answer made perfect sense. In other words, he was saying, "I don't know the recent situation of the Buddhadharma there, since I left last month." That was his implied meaning. Someone said that the Master was evading the question, but that's not the case. His answer made sense. It was a good answer, not at all inappropriate. He said, "I left last month, so how could I know how the Buddhadharma has been in the past several days? I don't know." That's all there is to it. It's pretty straightforward.
The Venerable One said, "Thieves are petty people." The Master's answer was a bit evasive, since he didn't say whether the Buddhadharma in Jiangnan was good or not. He simply said he had left the month before and didn't comment on the Buddhadharma. The Venerable One rebuked him, telling him that those who steal things are petty. The Master was not being forthright at all. The Venerable One called him a thief, the opposite of an upright, virtuous person, saying, "I'm not satisfied with your answer."
The Master, Dhyana Master Xingche,
said, "I'm afraid to alarm those who might hear. I dare not speak, lest I alarm the people of the world." For example, if someone asked him about the state of Buddhism and he said, "The monks in Jiangnan are murderers," wouldn't you think people would be alarmed? If he said, "The monks there have returned to lay life," don't you think people would feel ill at ease? He knew what was going on, but he couldn't say it, so he simply whispered, "I'm afraid to alarm those who might hear." You could say he was joking, but you could also say he was revealing the truth. Alarming news would certainly not be good news. Do you understand? Most probably a young monk seduced a girl. That's why Master Xingche couldn't say anything.
The Venerable One then transmitted the Dharma to him. The Master received a Dharma transmission from Venerable Tandu.
The Master became abbot first at Jinfeng (Gold Summit) Monastery, and then at Shitou (Stone) Monastery. Venerable Tandu had numerous outstanding disciples, but the Master surpassed them all. There were quite a few noteworthy "dragons and elephants" of the Dharma studying under Venerable Tandu, yet Dhyana Master Xingche was most exceptional of them all.
A verse in praise says:
Taking his purse, he traveled about.
Wholesome and profound was his character.
Assuming the abbotship,
He shouldered the burden alone.
He planted trees without roots,
And strummed lutes without strings.
Beholding his visage,
One hears his fine voice.
Taking his purse, he traveled about. In Chinese, the word for purse is similar to the terms for "blister" and "coarse fellow," both of which can be used to describe a wandering monk. The purse is worn on the waist and used to carry money. This implies that one travels about relying on one's own strength and resources.
Wholesome and profound was his character. His temperament was certainly fine. Would you like to see his portrait? He has eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth, just like everyone else, but his disposition was especially fine and noble.
Assuming the abbotship, the Lion Throne, he was the Dharma Host for that particular place.
He shouldered the burden alone. He developed his own strength so that he could take responsibility upon himself.
He planted trees without roots. How can rootless trees live? It's not easy. However, he was able to do it. Rootless trees planted by other people died, but those planted by him survived.
And strummed lutes without strings. How could a stringless lute produce any sound? However, he was able to play tunes on it.
Beholding his visage, / One hears his fine voice. Seeing the face of this Dhyana Master is like hearing his elegant sound, his Lion's Roar of fearless proclamation.
Another verse says:
Past causes led to his vow to transcend the world.
A man of genuine virtue emerged from Songru's disciples.
Seeing wild geese flying through the wintry sky,
He realized that spring is everywhere and lions are roaring.
Praised as fit for carving,
He quickly covered his ears.
Contemplating emptiness as devoid of marks,
He lit the lamp of the mind.
As abbot of pure temples,
He perpetuated the Proper Dharma.
The ship of compassion saves all,
Pointing out the way to those gone astray.
Having nothing better to do, I have presumptuously composed these lines.
Past causes led to his vow to transcend the world. Why did he make such a resolve? It was due to his tremendous, good roots from previous lives.
A man of genuine virtue emerged from Songru's disciples. Among the disciples of Venerable Songru,
he was the most true and excellent.
Seeing wild geese flying
through the wintry sky, surrounded by Nature, he awoke and
realized, "Oh, so that's how things originally are."
realized that spring is everywhere and lions are roaring. He
understood the principle of the cycle of seasons—spring,
summer, fall, and winter. When the cold comes, the heat
departs. We harvest in the fall and store the food away for
winter. That's how the seasons and the weather are. How
exactly are they? I don't know.
Praised as fit for carving.
Hearing himself praised as having the potential to amount to
something, to be made into a Dharma vessel, he quickly
covered his ears and listened no more, for fear that he
might become self- complacent.
Contemplating emptiness as
devoid of marks. He contemplated that emptiness was itself
empty and without marks. If you still have the mark of
emptiness, you are still attached to marks. "Contemplate
emptiness as empty; though empty, there is no emptying;
since there is no emptying, there is nothing at all. Since
there is nothing, all is profoundly still and tranquil." At
that point, "when stillness is without what is stilled,
spring appears. When nothing comes into being, the lamp of
the mind is lit." Then he lit the lamp of the mind.
of pure temples, / He perpetuated the Treasury of the Proper
Dharma Eye of Buddhism.
The ship of compassion saves all. He
was like a great Dharma ship on the ocean of living beings'
karma, pointing out the way to those gone astray. Amidst
tidal waves, he pointed a proper and bright path and a means