The Master was the Dharma heir of na Master Ju Xu of Baofu Monastery. Once a monk asked him, “What is the Buddha?”
The Master replied, “Assigning someone a job according to his capacity.”
The monk asked further, “After he is assigned to his job, then what?”
The Master replied, “The staff at Tiantai Mountain.”
Another question was asked, “What is the true and actual substance?”
The Master answered, “It’s very cold today!”
The monk asked, “What does this mean anyway?”
The Master replied, “Snow covering thousands upon thousands of mountains.”
The Forty-seventh Patriarch Dhyana Master
Huai Shen (Cherishing the Profound)
of Cishou (Reception of Kindness) Monastery. The name of this Dhyana Master is Huai Shen and he lived in the Cishou Monastery.
The Master was the Dharma heir of Dhyana Master Ju Xu of Baofu Monastery. He was a very virtuous person. Once while the Master was the abbot at Baofu,
a monk asked him, “What is the Buddha?”
The Master replied, “Assigning someone a job according to his capacity.” Give him a job that is suited to his ability. That was the Master’s reply to the monk’s question concerning who the Buddha is. The meaning is that one should not look for the Buddha in profound or esoteric matters. If you can understand people from ordinary affairs, you will also be able to understand the Buddha. “Liang” means to weigh or to think about. You think about one’s capacity and offer him whatever position he is suited for, that’s the meaning of “Buddha.”
The monk asked further, “After he is assigned to his job, then what?” What do you do after that?
The Master replied, “The staff at Tiantai Mountain.” What is the use of a staff at Tiantai Mountain? This staff is prepared for beating people when they fall into false thinking during a Chan meditation session. Can you tell what this means? Basically, this answer is a non sequitur. It is not a straightforward reply to the question. The question and answer seem to have nothing to do with each other. However, this is the style of Chan. You aren’t supposed to find a clue; you have no way to exercise your discriminating consciousness.
Another question was asked, “What is the substance of true reality?” What is our true and basic substance?
The Master answered, “It’s very cold today!” Look at that kind of reply.
The monk asked, “What does this mean anyway?” Ultimately what does this mean? He did not understand what this was inferring.
The Master replied, “Snow covering thousands upon thousands of mountains.” Again the answer seems to be totally unrelated to the question. What is this saying? It’s saying: don’t discriminate so much. Don’t think so much.
A verse in praise says:
The three enlightenments’ utmost perfection:
Assign him a job according to his capacity.
Use the staff at Tiantai:
Travel and eat as circumstances dictate.
Today it’s very cold.
The mountains are shrouded in snow.
The substance of true reality:
Contemplate it for a thousand ages.
The three enlightenments’ utmost perfection. The three enlightenments are enlightenment of self, which is different from the unenlightened state of common people. Second is the enlightenment of others, which is different from those of the Two Vehicles who do not wish to enlighten others. Arhats only want to finish their own business and do not want to bother with other people’s business; but Bodhisattvas benefit themselves and benefit others. They enlighten themselves and enlighten others; they save themselves and save others. And third is the perfection of enlightened practices, which is not the same as Bodhisattvas. This is the position of a Buddha, in which enlightened practices are complete and full. Although the Bodhisattvas enlighten themselves and others, they have not yet perfected their enlightened practices. In this case, all three enlightenments are perfected; they have reached their ultimate point.
Assign him a job according to his capacity. Whoever wants to do things at this moment, he will give you a suitable position according to your capacity.
Use the staff at Tiantai, the Chan staff at Tiantai Mountain.
Travel and eat as circumstances dictate. Accord with conditions as they arise.
Today it’s very cold. This was the Master’s reply to the monk’s question. “What is the substance of true reality?” And when the question was further pursued, the Master answered,
“The mountains are shrouded in snow.” All the mountains are covered with snow.
The substance of true reality: what is it? One must
contemplate it for a thousand ages. For a thousand years, people should think it over. There will be someone who will be able to understand this principle.
Another verse says:
The Chan School puts an end to intellectual discernment and mental discrimination.
Thus eliminating extraneous thinking.
The reply does not answer the question; his words seem confused.
The specifics contradict the principle; his speech is jumbled up.
The true substance: “It’s very cold today!”
The ultimate purport: “a pool amidst snow-capped mountains.”
His ambiguous answers transcend all of nature.
Words perish, deliberations are destroyed, and even thoughts are lost.
The Chan School puts an end to intellectual discernment and mental discrimination. In the Chan School, “The path of language is cut off; the place of the workings of the mind is destroyed.”
Thus eliminating extraneous thinking. You do away with discrimination and cognitive activity. “Sweep away all dharmas, and separate from all marks.” Empty out everything. What do you do when you get there? At this point that is all that can be said. You should sweep away these thoughts of wanting to know such things. You should be as if you don’t not know anything.
The reply does not answer the question; his words seem confused. The Master’s response does not fit the question. You ask him, “What is the Buddha?” and he answers, “Assign someone a job according to his capacity.” In what way are these two connected? His words seem to be confused.
The specifics contradict the principle; his speech is jumbled up. Specific events and the general principle are not in agreement, and his words seem all mixed up and disconnected.
The true substance: “It’s very cold today.” You ask him, “What is the substance of true reality?” And he answers, “It’s very cold today.” Again, the reply is incongruent with what was asked. After all, what’s
the ultimate purport of this? A pool amidst snow-capped mountains. This snowy mountain has become like a snow-white pool.
His ambiguous answers transcend all of nature. It seems as if he was dodging the issue and not meeting the question head on. If the question is about heaven, the answer is about the earth. If the question is related to the sun, the answer is about the moon. This is removed from the language and thinking patterns of most ordinary people. So he was able to transcend all of nature.
Words perish, deliberations are destroyed, and even thoughts are lost. Words are dismissed, conscious effort is obliterated, and even thoughts are gone. In Chan School, you “sweep away all dharmas and separate from all marks.” It is not based on words and is specially transmitted outside the teaching. It is an inconceivable Dharma-door that cannot be expressed in words.