The Master was born to the Chen family in Gutian. In his youth, he was educated as a scholar. At the age of twenty-five, he suddenly grew weary of the world and renounced the home life to investigate the doctrine of the mind under the Venerable Hengtao. He then left the monastery and traveled about as a wandering student. He paid respects to Dhyana Master Wenjue in Beijing. At that time his doubts suddenly increased.
One day Wen saw the Master and immediately dealt him a blow with a bamboo cane. The Master made a full bow. Wen asked him, "What principle have you seen?" The Master said, "I am not a fox spirit." Wen used his hand to cover the Master's mouth and said, "Without using the mouth, what can you say?" The Master brushed Wen's hand away and said, "The mouth is only good for eating." Then he presented a verse: "A mute eats huanglian,but cannot use his mouth to describe it. He can only nod his head. It is hot in the summertime." Dhyana Master Wen certified him. He then returned to Fujian, where the Venerable Hengtao made him his successor. He manifested the stillness, and his stupa was erected at Gushan. Minister Xu, admiring the Master's virtuous example, became his disciple and recorded the Master's oral teachings for publication.
This Dhyana Master, whose name is Dhyana Master Pianzhao (Universally Illuminating) Xinglong, is from Gushan and is a Patriarch of the seventy-second generation. Gutian is the name of a district in Fujian Province. The Chen family produced a Patriarch.
The Master was born to the Chen family in Gutian. In his youth, he was educated as a scholar. He pursued academic studies as a young man. At the age of twenty-five, he suddenly grew weary of the world, feeling that everything worldly was unreal and ephemeral, not ultimate, and so he renounced the home life to investigate the doctrine of the mind under the Venerable Hengtao. He followed a very virtuous Dhyana Master by the name of Hengtao, and studied Chan investigation, which is the study of the mind, the Dharma door of the Mind Ground. The Mind Ground contains all seeds and produces all kinds of merit and virtue. All meritorious virtues and Dharma wealth come forth from the Mind Ground.
He then left the monastery where he had been living and traveled about to different places as a wandering student. He drew near and paid respects to Dhyana Master Wenjue in Beijing. At that time his doubts suddenly increased. He started to have some responses in his practice. In studying the Buddhadharma, people should not apply effort merely at an intellectual level by using the conscious, discriminating mind. That is, one should not do things superficially and make a show of working without really doing the work. One should not put on a false show just to impress others and get publicity. One should not say, "Look at me, I'm a great Buddhist. I'm a true cultivator of Buddhism," and so on. That is nothing but false advertising. One focuses on appearances but has no real skill or substance. One's exterior is gold-plated, but the interior is a mess. That is not the study of the mind. Rather, it is superficial hypocrisy. And so when the Master went to Beijing, he truly recognized his past faults and started to apply himself seriously.
One day Dhyana Master Wenjue saw the Master and immediately dealt him a blow with a bamboo cane, the kind used as a carrying pole. The Master was caught off guard by the surprise attack. Dhyana Master Wenjue did not say, "Let me hit you so you can attain some advantages." That wouldn't have worked. Rather, Dhyana Master Wenjue caught the Master when he least expected it; he went up and hit him without saying a word. He was testing the Master to see what how he would react. The Master made a full bow, but Dhyana Master Wenjue didn't know whether he had truly understood or was just pretending, so Wen asked him further, "What principle have you seen?" He was asking, "After I hit you, what insight did you have? How did you feel?" He was still testing the Master.
The Master said, "I am not a fox spirit." The "fox spirit" is an allusion to intellectual effort unsupported by practice. People who confuse others with their talking, but don't practice, resemble fox spirits that live in the mountains. Fox spirits also inhabit the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and they are very good at confusing people. They speak so eloquently that "celestial flowers rain down and golden lotuses well forth from the earth," but their actions don't match their words. If you want to know whether someone is a fox spirit, use the Six Principles as a yardstick. No matter how well a person can talk, if he still fights, is greedy, seeks externally, is selfish, seeks personal gain, and lies and cheats all day long, he is a fox spirit. If he does not fight, is not greedy, does not seek outside, is not selfish, does not seek personal gain, and does not lie, he is a Bodhisattva.
I tell you, these principles enable us to determine who is working hard and who is a good teacher. A genuinely good teacher fears nothing. He has no worries, fears, or hangups. "I am not a fox spirit" means "I am not stealing or copying someone else's answers."
Hearing that, Dhyana Master Wen used his hand to cover the Master's mouth and said, "Without using the mouth, what can you say? Let's see what you say now!" He was testing the Master. He didn't literally want to know what the Master could say with his mouth covered up. He was just bantering with the Master to see what he would say next. It was a test. Since he couldn't talk with his mouth covered, the Master brushed Wen's hand away and said, "The mouth is only good for eating. I can't talk with my mouth, but I can eat." He was saying that it is impossible to speak of the Way when language has been cut off and thoughts have ceased. This is the ultimate state of the Dharma door of the Mind Ground.
Then he presented a verse: "A mute eats huanglian, but cannot use his mouth to describe it." A mute eats the bitterest herb, but he cannot describe its bitter taste even though he has a mouth. This also represents having true understanding, but being unable to express it. One is like a mute that tastes the bitterness and knows it for himself. However, the Master is not literally referring to the bitter taste of huanglian. Thus he says, "He cannot use his mouth to describe it; he can only nod his head and say to himself, 'How bitter! How bitter!'"
"It is hot in the summertime." In the summer, the weather naturally gets hot. Dhyana Master Wen certified him. Hearing the Master, Dhyana Master Wenjue knew that he understood the ultimate state that goes beyond language, thought, and words, and so he certified the Master's enlightenment.
He, Master Xinglong, then returned to Fujian, where the Venerable Hengtao made him his successor as Abbot. He manifested the stillness, and since he was the Abbot at Gushan (Drum Mountain), his stupa was erected at Gushan. A certain Minister Xu, whose position was slightly lower than that of a prime minister, admiring and praising the Master's virtuous example, became his disciple. Even though Dhyana Master Xinlong had entered the perfect stillness, the Minister still wished to be his disciple and recorded the Master's oral teachings for publication and circulation in the world.
To be continued
Venerable Master's Dharma Words
Every person's body is a prison cell. It's just that we don't realize it.