Another verse says:
Common people are many; humane ones are rare.
While he lived with a group, the potentials did not mesh.
Seeing no fire burning, he was called a blind man.
Encased in ice, he awakened and was called a worthy of his time.
After forty years, he attained a state of oneness.
Eighty thousand eons before, he had cultivated for three asamkhyeyas.
He took to the road, returning to the Land of Stillness and Light.
Evening drums and morning bells—strange, strange, strange!
Common people are many; humane ones are rare. Very few people are truly outstanding. Most people are vulgar and common, imposters, thieves among the virtuous. Some left-home people wear the clothes and hats of left-home people, but don’t do what left-home people should do and are not clear about what their own responsibilities are. Lacking that clarity, they talk nonsense and make trouble. That is why it is said that truly humane ones are rare. To be humane is to be compassionate and kind. There are very few left-home people who are genuinely endowed with kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Many of them deceive people, saying one thing but doing another.
While he lived with a group, the potentials did not mesh. Seeing no fire burning, he was called a blind man. At Yunmen, there was a monk who said, “The neighbor’s house is on fire.”
Dhyana Master Chengyuan said, “Where is there a fire?”
The monk said, “Don’t you see it?”
Dhyana Master Chengyuan said, “No.”
The monk then said, “Oh! You are blind. You can’t even see the fire!”
This is basically nonsense. Dhyana Master Chengyun was not blind; the monk was talking nonsense. There was no such fire, yet he insisted that there was. That is why Master Chengyuan could not see it. Instead of admitting that he was talking nonsense, that monk accused others of being blind. That is why the verse says, “Truly humane ones are rare.” Most people only perform lip service. They can talk, but they cannot practice. They rely on intellectual Chan. So he said, “Those who cannot see the fire are blind.”
Encased in ice, he awakened and was called a worthy of his time. Being encased in ice refers to the coldest month of winter. Yet a fire consumes the mountain. One feels very hot—like a burning mountain—even though it is cold. This means that after acquiring skill, you fear nothing. You can take it, whether it is cold or hot. Even in December, you feel like a mountain on fire. This also means that no matter how difficult the situation was, he still felt very happy, as if it were nothing extraordinary.
A left-home person should have some backbone. He was not afraid of the cold, nor was he afraid of heat. In other words, his mind was not moved by slander or praise. It made no difference whether you praised or scolded him. It didn’t matter to him. That is the meaning of the fire burning the mountain in December. “Encased in ice, he was discovered and called a worthy of his time.” Therefore, Master Jiaokuan said, “It had to be my brother Yuan who got it! Dhyana Master Chengyuan has what it takes.” He was a kindred spirit to the Master.
After forty years, he attained a state of oneness. It had taken him forty years of applying effort for his skill to mesh and his work to be completed. Do you see that? For the first thirty-nine years, he had been walking on the road, applying effort. He was courageously vigorous and did not retreat.
Eighty thousand eons before, he had cultivated for three asamkhyeyas. Eighty thousand great eons ago, he had cultivated blessings and wisdom for three great
asamkhyeya kalpas, and so now his skill could come to fruition. Therefore, we who cultivate the Way should not be impatient. Don’t say, “I have cultivated for so many years and I don’t feel like I’ve gained anything.”
What do you want to gain? If you don’t cultivate, when it comes time to die, you won’t have anything either. What would you have, if you didn’t cultivate?
He took to the road, returning to the Land of Stillness and Light. He bade farewell to the Honorable Song Dang, saying that he was going to travel around. A judge said, “You crazy monk. You are in your eighties. Where are you going?”
The Honorable Song said, “Oh, a teacher of great wisdom comes and goes freely.” That is why this verse says that he was returning to the Pure Land of Constant Stillness and Light.
Evening drums and morning bells—strange, strange, strange! This was like the evening drum and morning bells, which warn us, as cultivators, not to be impatient and greedy for quick results. We should not be like opium smokers, who get high fast, but find withdrawal difficult to endure. Thus, the evening drum and morning bells startle us awake from our confused dreams and the attachments of ordinary people. After cultivating for two and a half days, we say, “Oh, I have not succeeded in my cultivation. I’m giving up.”
After he finished speaking, he entered the stillness. Isn’t this being free to come and go? Ordinary people see this as being very strange, and so the verse says, “Strange, strange, strange!” If any one of you has doubts, it could read, “Doubtful, doubtful, doubtful!”