The Master was a son of the Zhang family of
Qinghe County, and a Dharma heir of
Dhyana Master Yan of Xuanquan. Once the Master asked, “What was the intention of the Patriarch in coming from the West?” Master
Xuanquan picked up a bar of soap and asked, “Do you understand?”
The Master replied, “No, I do not understand.”
Master Xuanquan put down the bar of soap, and proceeded to mimic the gestures of washing clothes. Thereupon the Master made obeisance, and said, “Now I believe and know that there is nothing more to the Buddhadharma than this!”
Master Xuanquan said to him, “What principle have you understood?” The Master replied, “I once asked Master Yantou (Cliff) about this. And he told me, ‘Do you want to get rid of the stickiness? Simply dissolve the glue.’ Now the Venerable Master has picked up this bar of soap. That is also for the purpose of dissolving the glue. For this reason I said that there is nothing more than this.”
Master Xuanquan laughed out loud and the Master became enlightened. Then he said, “I urgently take refuge with the Master. Please give me some news.” Master Xuanquan replied, “When fire burns a petticoat, a fragrance is exuded.”
Then the Master asked, “When the winds are still and the waves are quiet, what should one do?” Master
Xuanquan answered, “Carry five ounces up a hundred foot pole.”
This Dhyana Master is of the 41st generation. Since he lived at Huanglong (Yellow Dragon), he was called Dhyana Master Huanglong. His name was Huiji (“Opportune Instructions”). He was the Dhyana Master whom the Taoist immortal Lü Dongbin met. In China, everyone knows about the Taoist Patriarch Lü, who upon meeting Dhyana Master Huanglong, said, “Having met Dhyana Master Huanglong, I realize that in the past I practiced incorrectly.” After Patriarch Lü took refuge with Master Huanglong, he realized that as a Taoist, he had only gone halfway in his cultivation, and had not yet reached the ultimate.
The Master was a son of the Zhang family of Qinghe County, Hebei Province,
and a Dharma heir of Dhyana Master Yan of Xuanquan. He received the Dharma transmission from Master Yan of Xuanquan.
Once the Master Huanglong, when he first met Master Xuan quan,
asked, “What is the intent of the Patriarch come from the West? What is the great meaning behind the Patriarch’s coming from the Western region? What is the profound meaning of this dharma door? What Dharma did Patriarch Bodhidharma transmit when he got here?” Master Xuanquan did not speak or answer. Instead, he
picked up a bar of soap. This soap could be used for cleaning.
And he asked Master Huanglong, “Do you understand now?”
The Master replied, “No, I do not understand.”
Master Xuanquan put down the bar of soap, and proceeded to make the gesture of washing clothes. He assumed the mannerisms of someone washing clothes.
Thereupon the Master Huiji made obeisance, in gratitude for the Dharma. He thanked Master Xuanquan for transmitting the Dharma to him,
and said, “Now I believe and know that there is nothing more to the Buddhadharma than this! Only as of today do I realize that there is nothing else, nothing esoteric, or secret, or inaccessible about the Buddhadharma. It is ordinary. The ordinary mind is the Way. There is nothing more than that. It is a very common principle.”
Master Xuanquan said to him, “What principle have you understood? Well, what kind of state have you perceived? What is your viewpoint on this? How do you feel? Speak up.”
The Master replied, “I once asked the Master Yantou (Cliff) about this. Previously I had asked him this same question,
and he told me, “Do you want to get rid of the stickiness? Do you want to free yourself from this sticky business? Do you want to break your attachment to this stickiness? Have you smashed your attachment?
To get rid of the stickiness, simply dissolve this glue. Simply separate yourself from what is sticky.
Now the Venerable Master has picked up this bar of soap—and that was telling me to smash my attachments—not to work on the superficials, but instead look into my own nature.
That is also for the purpose of dissolving the glue. For this reason I said there is nothing more to the Buddhadharma
than this. It exists to help us break our attachments. Once we break our attachments, we are without constraints and impediments, without worry and obstructions.” Therefore, you have to break whatever attachments you have. If you do not, you will always have trouble. You have to be unattached to everything.
Master Xuanquan laughed out loud—he had a good laugh.
And the Master Huanglong became enlightened. From that incident he became awakened.
Then he said, “I urgently take refuge with the Master. Please give me some news. Please always remain in communication with me.”
Master Xuanquan replied, “When fire burns a petticoat, a fragrance is exuded. You want to remain in communication with me? What does that mean? It is like when fire burns a woman’s petticoat. Because the petticoat has been regularly saturated with perfume, it exudes a fragrance even when it is burned. Applying that analogy to remaining in communication, the fragrance refers to maintaining your lofty character and your practice at all times. Do not be lax. Then, at all times and in all places, you will be supported by a strength with which you can propagate the Buddhadharma.”
Then the Master asked, “When the winds are still and the waves are quiet, what should one do? During unusual times, of course one has to hold to one’s samadhi. But what about ordinary times when nothing is going on, when there are neither pleasant or adverse states, when the winds and waves are quiet and there is no trouble, what should I do?”
Master Xuanquan answered, “Carry five ounces up a hundred foot pole. At those times, you should continue with unremitting effort, like someone climbing a hundred-foot pole and carrying a five-ounce awl or some other object of that weight. Do not crave convenience or ease. When you are climbing a steep place, such as a hundred-foot pole, even five Chinese ounces is a considerable weight and is not easy to carry along with you. For this reason we say that if someone walks on the road for a long time, even if he were only carrying a needle, he would still feel its weight. “Having reached the top of the hundred-foot pole, do not be lax. Keep on working. On the top of a hundred-foot pole, keep on progressing. Manifest your entire body in the worlds of the ten directions. At the final moment, the culmination of your efforts, do not be lazy. Keep on pushing ahead. Even when the winds and waves are calm, keep on cultivating. It’s not the case that just because nothing seems to be going on, your skill has arrived at the highest place and you do not have to continue to push forward. You should not limit yourself by stopping halfway and thinking that you’ve done enough.”
A verse in praise says:
The Buddhadharma is nothing but this.
Ha! Ha! Grab the essentials.
When the bottom of a crystal jar falls out,
Then the secret is revealed.
Burnt petticoat: Relish the fragrance.
You’re nervous, while I laugh.
When the waves subside and the winds are calm,
Who lets down the bait and tackle?
The Buddhadharma is nothing but this. He said that there is nothing esoteric, lofty, or secret about the Buddhadharma.
Ha! Ha! Grab the essentials. Guard yourself and do not let yourself become afflicted. “From of old, immortals had no other method: They gave rise to immense happiness and did not allow themselves to get worried.” If at all times you can remain smiling and cheerful, and not get angry or worried, then you’ll get to the essentials. You will have a handle on the situation.
When the bottom of a crystal jar falls out, then the secret is revealed. Suppose there is a crystal jar which is translucent inside and out. However, if the bottom does not fall out, there will be no opening. If the bottom falls out, the wonderful secret will be exposed.
Burnt petticoat: Relish the fragrance. When a woman’s petticoat gets burned, a fragrance will linger.
You’re nervous, while I laugh. If a woman’s petticoat caught on fire, it would be an urgent situation. You would have to put out the fire at once. You would be agitated. But while you’d be nervous, I would find it quite amusing—very funny.
When the waves subside and the winds are calm, when the water is still and quiet,
who lets down the bait and tackle? During such a time, anyone who tries his luck at fishing will probably have some success. Letting down the bait and tackle means that at ordinary times, when nothing unusual is going on, if you can keep on working on your cultivation, you will most certainly have some achievement. Do not be lax just because nothing seems to be going on. If you can keep on working hard during such times, you will complete your work in the Way.
That’s my interpretation of these lines. I don’t know, but there might be others who have a different way of explaining them.
To be continued