The monk asked, “Where does the mistake lie? Well, what’s wrong with my question?” He could not understand the Master’s reply to his question and proceeded to argue.
The Master answered, “The mistake lies in my getting you involved in this trouble. The mistake lies on my part, which is why I have hit you. It’s right there: since I have hit you, I’ve been giving you trouble. The teacher teaches and transforms his disciples. The Patriarch teaches and transforms his followers. The mistake is with me, and I have given you trouble.”
When the King of Jiangnan heard about this rumor, he also asked the Master, “What was the unfinished business of your teacher? What task did he leave uncompleted?”
This time the Master did not strike the king. He knew that if he hit a monk he would not be committing a crime deserving death. But if he hit the king, he might lose his head. And so he did not strike the king.
The Master replied, “I am right now in the process of clarifying the issue. That’s what I am doing right now. Look at everything I do: it is all part of completing the unfinished business on my teacher’s behalf. I am making things clear for all of you.”
Another monk asked. Maybe this monk wanted to showoff, and so he asked a question:
“What is the secret meaning that came from the west? What is the secret meaning of the Path transmitted from India?”
The Master Fa Deng
answered, “Suffering!” If you do not go through some intense suffering and hard work, you won’t attain this meaning. You have to put down and renounce worldly honor, glory, wealth, lust, fame, and profit. And for people who don’t understand, this is a lot of suffering.
But this monk still had not understood, and so he came up with another question:
“What is the great intent of the Buddhadharma? What is the general meaning of the Buddhadharma?”
The Master came back with this retort, “First, ask about the small intent.” First the monk asked about the secret intent, and then the great intent, and so the Master told him to look into the small intent. “If you understand the small meaning, you will also understand the great meaning. If you don’t understand the small, how could you understand the great? If you understand the small intent, I will then let you know about the great intent.” Actually this was a very practical and accurate answer. And so the Master concluded by saying, “First, ask about the small intent. Then I will show you the great intent.”
A verse in praise says:
On the tiger’s neck hung a golden bell.
The Master managed to fasten it, and is able to untie it, too.
The hundred joints belong to one body.
In a contest between two people, only one gets the trophy.
The Buddhadharma’s intent is great,
But the Way gets ignored for thousands of years.
The life-pulse of the Patriarchs does not end.
Clarification is going on right now.
A verse in praise of Dharma Master Fa Deng says: On the tiger’s neck hung a golden bell. The Master managed to fasten it, and is able to untie it, too. Dharma Master Fa Deng dares to fasten a golden bell onto the tiger’s neck, and also dares to untie it.
The hundred joints belong to one body. The human body consists of four limbs and a hundred joints, and is a combination of the four elements. Yet all of these belong to one substance. The Buddhadharma’s great meaning is the same way: one root divides into a myriad branches; a myriad branches all return to one root.
In a contest between two people, only one wins and gets the trophy. The Buddhadharma’s intent is great, but the Way gets ignored for thousands of years. Because a lot of suffering is involved, there aren’t many people who are truly intent on cultivation. Most people waste their time and look lightly on the Buddhadharma. And so for a thousand years, there haven’t been many people who have had success.
The life-pulse of the Patriarchs does not end. The life-force of the Patriarchs, their robe and bowl, has not been cut off but is perpetuated to the present day.
Clarification is going on right now. Everything we do now—propagating the Buddhadharma, teaching and transforming living beings, and so forth—are all part of the Buddhadharma’s great intent, its secret meaning.
Another verse says:
From birth he knew about his past lives;
He belonged to the flow of sages.
Unimpeded eloquence came from cultivation of prajna.
Living in the mountains and hiding his light, his resolve was tranquil and untainted.
Entering the hall, he proclaimed the teachings and perpetuated the grand scheme.
Clarifying unfinished business, this is the matter at hand.
Having been released from bondage, he comes here again in his travels.
Sons and grandsons are caught up in this messy business;
If you do not recognize your true self, you will never put to rest what should be put to rest.
From birth he knew about his past lives. From birth he understood former causes and future effects. He knew what he was all about in the past.
If you wish to know your past causes,
It’s what you are going through in this life.
If you wish to know your future results,
It’s what you are doing in this life.
If you desire to know your past causes and conditions, just look at all your experiences in this life—they are the result of your past lives. If you desire to know about your future life, just take a look at what you are doing right now. If you do human things in this life, in the future you will be reborn as a human being. If you do animal-like things in this life, in the future you will be reborn as an animal. If you do ghost-like things in this life, in the future you will be reborn as a ghost. If you exclusively create offenses, in the future you will fall into the hells. The three periods of time are interrelated, mutually acting as cause and effect. The Master knew about his past life, and
he belonged to the flow of sages. People like him have good roots and are Bodhisattvas who have come again, the provisional appearance of great beings who have come to teach and transform living beings.
Unimpeded eloquence came from cultivation of
prajna. Because in the past he cultivated
prajna wisdom, in this life he obtained unobstructed eloquence. However, there are those who come from the paths of goblins, ghosts, and demons who also possess unimpeded eloquence, but theirs is a kind of worldly knowledge and skill in debate.
Living in the mountains and masking his light, his resolve was tranquil and untainted. His original wish was to live in the mountains, hide his light, and cover his tracks. He was aloof from mundane matters and was not ambitious for fame or profit. But in order to complete his teacher’s unfinished task, he entered society to propagate the Buddhadharma.
Entering the hall, he proclaimed the teachings and perpetuated the grand scheme. He assumed a grand mission and responsibility.
Clarifying unfinished business, this is the matter at hand. He said, “Right now I am clarifying the issue and completing the unfinished task.”
Having been released from bondage, he comes here again in his travels. He has already broken the fetters, but he comes again to the world to teach living beings.
Sons and grandsons are caught up in this messy business. Because the Patriarchs did not complete their tasks, they left a lot of unfinished business, many issues concerning rights and wrongs that give their descendents a lot of trouble.
If you do not recognize your true self, your basic Buddha-nature,
you’ll never put to rest what should be put to rest. Although you are supposed to take a rest, you don’t rest. Although you should put a stop to all this, you don’t stop. You keep on rising and falling, revolving in the six paths of rebirth.
Coming out of a horse’s belly, you enter a cow’s womb.
How many times have you come before King Yama’s court?
Having just passed by Lord Shakra’s palace,
You have plummeted into Yama’s vat!
It is very dangerous to be revolving in the six paths of rebirth. However, most people intentionally deny cause and effect, saying, “Don’t believe in the six paths of rebirth.” Whether you believe it or not, the six paths of rebirth in fact exist. But if you stubbornly refuse to accept the truth, you are stopping up your ears and stealing a bell, thinking no one else will be able to hear it ring.