The Master was a son of the Sun family of the Luozhou prefecture. He attained the Dharma from Dhyana Master Guang Zhao and assumed the position of abbot after Master Chang Lu. Once a monk asked him, “What is the principle behind Bodhidharma facing the wall?” The Master remained silent for a long time. Then the monk bowed.
The Master commented, “Today on being questioned by this monk, I became a virtual mute!”
One day he entered the Dharma Hall and said,
There are one hundred and five days
after the winter solstice and before the Cold Food Festival
On the road of living people,
Dead people are countless.
They burrow their heads into a thicket of thorns;
Ah! The torment that living beings undergo!
What’s the point of sweeping your ancestors’ graves?
It’s merely piling dirt upon mounds of bones.
Only those who have left the home-life
no longer traverse the road of non-birth.
Great assembly, speak up! Which way should we go?
Tiantai Mountain in the south? Or,
Wutai Mountain in the north?
Dhyana Master Ci
Jue of Zongze Monastery was the Patriarch of the forty-sixth generation. The forty-sixth patriarch came from Zongze (Profound Purport) Monastery. His name was Dhyana Master Ci Jue (Kind Awakening).
The Master was a son of the Sun family of the Luozhou prefecture. This Dhyana Master Ci Jue was from the Luozhou prefecture. His family name was Sun. After leaving the home-life,
he attained the mind-seal Dharma door
from Dhyana Master Guangzhao (Vast Illumination)
and assumed the position of abbot after Master Chang Lu. After Dhyana Master Chang Lu (Master Chong Xin of Chang Lu Monastery) retired from the abbotship, Dhyana Master Ci Jue took on his position.
A monk asked him. One time a monk came to ask the abbot a question: “What is the meaning of the Patriarch Bodhidharma facing the wall? What is the meaning of the Patriarch Bodhidharma sitting in Bear’s Ear Mountain for nine years facing the wall?”
The Master remained silent for a long time, without talking. Since the monk asked him for the principle behind sitting facing the wall, the Master answered him with silence. He was simply acting out the meaning behind “facing the wall”—it means not talking at all.
Then the monk bowed. The monk understood, “Ah, it means not talking, it means acting like a dead person.” So he bowed to the Master in appreciation.
The Master Ci Jue
commented, “Today, on being questioned by this monk, I became a virtual mute!” I have been rendered speechless.” Actually this is a hidden allusion to their interchange. He did not want others to know about the true meaning of their dialogue. Of course the monk bowed to him because he understood that the Master had just spoken the Dharma to him. Although Dhyana Master Ci Jue was silent, he was in fact speaking Dharma without sound or form.
One day he entered the Dharma hall and said, “There are one hundred and five days after the winter solstice and before the Cold Food Festival. The Cold Food Festival takes place one hundred and five days after the winter solstice.
The story of the Cold Food Festival began when Duke Wen of Jin, who was known as Prince Chong Er at that time, was exiled. He lived the life of a refugee, drifting from one state to another during the Spring and Autumn Period. He didn’t have anything to eat or drink in any of the places he went. As the saying goes, “A phoenix that has run out of luck is worse off than an ordinary chicken.” Although he was a prince, he assumed a very lowly position and went hungry during his exile. Jie Zhitui, a member of his retinue, then cut off some flesh from his own thigh, cooked it, and served it to the Prince, Chong Er, to prevent him from starving. Jie Zhitui was that sincere in aiding his prince.
Ordinary people say that there is “no gain without pain”. How about one who has gained achievements? He must deserve a “reward”, which in feudal China refered to the title of nobility and an official’s salary. Later Prince Chong Er returned to State of Jin and assumed the title of Duke. The ministers who had served him loyally during his years of exile all came to claim benefits for their merit, and they were generously rewarded with fiefs and high offices—all except Jie Zhitui, who did not go to his ruler asking for an official position. He probably had a stubborn streak and thought, “I refuse to go before the prince. I will see if he will still reward me with an official position.”
Duke Wen of Jin, in his newly regained glory, probably forgot his old friend who had once served him with his own flesh. So he did not offer an official position to Jie Zhitui. Jie Zhitui probably thought, “Since I served you my own flesh, you couldn’t possibly forget me.” But Duke Wen simply forgot about the incident. Jie Zhitui was displeased, “OK, since you didn’t offer me any position, I am leaving.” He took his mother to Mian Mountain and lived there in seclusion.
After some time passed, Duke Wen suddenly remembered Jie Zhitui and asked, “Where’s Jie Zhitui?” He sent his men to look for him. When people responded that Jie Zhitui was living in Mian Mountain, Duke Wen said, “Go tell him that I want him back.” He sent an envoy to Mian Mountain and asked Jie Zhitui to come back. But Jie Zhitui did not pay any attention to Duke Wen. He said, “Now you want me back? Forget it!” He still lived in Mian Mountain with his mother.
Since he refused to come out, Duke Wen sent another envoy to look for him. He was determined to have him back and make him an official no matter what. Because the Duke Wen had found him, Jie Zhitui retreated further into the mountain to a place where people could not reach him. There he lived a very quiet and rustic life with his mother.
But Duke Wen of Jin thought of a wicked plot to force him out. What was it? He thought, “Fine, I cannot reach you, so I will burn the mountain. You definitely will come out to escape being burned to death. I will see where you can hide then!” He ordered his men to set fire to three sides of the mountain and leave one side open, thinking that this would certainly drive Jie Zhitui out. It turned out that Jie Zhitui still did not come out after the mountain was totally burnt. After the fire died down, they went onto the mountain to look for him. They found both Jie Zhitui and his mother burned to death in the deep forest of the mountain.
Duke Wen of Jin was filled with remorse, “How come this person was so stubborn and tough and refused to come out even upon being burned to death?” Actually Duke Wen’s plot was very stupid. How could Jie Zhitui possibly escape? The fire was burning so fast and he had to carry his old mother on his back; how could he possibly move quickly enough? Even if he had wanted to, he would not have managed to get out of the forest. In the end, both parties were harmed. Duke Wen thought it would be okay to force Jie Zhitui to come out by setting the forest on fire, but the opposite result added to his remorse.
Since the Duke Wen of Jin was filled with remorse about Jie Zhitui’s death, he set aside that painful day, which is two days before the Qingming Festival (the festival for sweeping one’s ancestors’ graves), making it the Cold Food Festival in memory of Jie Zhitui. On that day, the citizens were not allowed to cook or reheat their food, no matter whether the food were raw or cooked; they had to eat their food cold. This meant that people could not light fires that day. Wouldn’t you say that Duke Wen of Jin was a foolish ruler? He had already managed to kill Jie Zhitui, and now, by issuing this edict, he was trying to stop others from lighting fires. Of what use was this? If you ask me, I would say that he was showing off his authority and power too much. He thought, “I have burned Jie Zhitui to death, and now you common citizens are not allowed to use your cooking stoves!” Of what use was this? He wanted to commemorate his burning of Jie Zhitui. That’s the story about the Cold Food Festival, which takes place 105 days after the winter solstice.
On the road of living people, dead people are countless. It was the same road living people were walking, yet, it was filled with countless dead ones as well.
They burrow their heads into a thicket of thorns. Living beings drive their heads into brambles and thorns and cut themselves until they are bleeding all over. How they torture themselves!
Ah! The torment that living beings undergo! This is also a facet of living beings’ delusion and is a kind of suffering.
What’s the point of sweeping your ancestors’ graves? Does it mean anything?
It’s merely piling dirt upon mounds of bones. It’s simply dumping some earth on piles of rotten bones. This is just another facet of all living beings’ confusion. One person alleges this is right, another person alleges that is wrong, and they spin around in the cycle of rights and wrongs.
To be continued