Showing posts with label Yuan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yuan. Show all posts

Monday, December 9, 2013

More Dunhuang Yuan, the Lost Chan Master

I have previously offered selections of Yuan from Record II of the Bodhidharma Anthology (a Dunhuang text) there (where I also included extensive quotations from the translator, Jeremy Broughton) and there, but I would like to include three additional dialogues here.

The first dialogue describes seeing transgression and transcending seeing. The second concerns the view of no view. And the third describes the critical failure of all words. All three speak to seeing through all the subtle deceptions of conditionality.

Note the directness of Yuan’s language. In fact, the one Master who sermonizes is not Yuan but Chih. And Yuan blows him off accordingly. When Yuan finally speaks at length in the third dialogue, it is only to thoroughly disavow “terms and written words.” And when questioned again, Yuan simply refuses to respond, a silent ‘keep quiet.’

Dharma Master Chih saw Dharma Master Yuan on the street of butchers and asked: "Do you see the butchers slaughtering the sheep?" Dharma master Yuan said: "My eyes are not blind. How could I not see them?" Dharma Master Chih said: "Master Yuan, you are saying you see it!" Master Yuan said: "You're seeing it on top of seeing it!"

Master Chih again asked: "If you hold a view with characteristics, it is the view of a common man. If you hold a view of voidness of essence, it is the view of the two vehicles. If you hold a view of neither existence nor nonexistence, it is the view of a solitary Buddha. If you hold a view of pity and sympathy, it is the view of compassion with love. If you use mind to view, then it is the view of the followers of the non-Buddhist paths. If you make use of the consciousnesses to view, it is the view of the Heavenly Evil One. If you do not see forms and formlessness, you will no longer have views. How should one view in order to be free of all these errors?" Master Yuan said: "I have nothing whatsoever to do with these sorts of views at all, and that is what is properly called taking a view. Because you create various false thoughts such as these, you are deluding and confusing yourself."

A certain person asked Master Yuan: "Why do you not teach me the Dharma?" Answer: "If I were to set up a Dharma to teach you, it would not be leading you. If I were to set up a Dharma, it would be deceiving you; it would be failing you. If I had a Dharma, how could I explain it to someone else? How could I speak of it to you? It comes down to this: If there are terms and written words, all of it will deceive you. How could I tell you even a mustard seed's worth of the meaning of the great path? If I could speak of it, what purpose would that serve?" When asked again, [Master Yuan] did not reply.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chan Master Yuan, Bodhidharma Disciple, On Bodily Energy (t'i-ch'i) and Spirit (ching-shen)

Record II [of the Bodhidharma Anthology] truly constitutes the beginnings of the recorded­ sayings genre of Ch' an literature… Sections 50-56 center on Master Yuan…

Who is this Yuan? We do not know, and we will never know, but below I will list him as one of Bodhidharma's disciples. We might call him a forgotten Bodhidharma disciple, or at the very least a forgotten member of the Bodhidharma circle…

His name is a Buddhist technical term. The Sanskrit would be pratyaya (condition). Related expressions include idampratyayata (this­conditionality) and pratitya-samutpada (dependent origination). Perhaps we could call him "Master Conditioned," his name suggesting the profound teaching of conditionality, which must be seen and understood or one remains in samsara…

The Master Yuan sections of Record II are true Ch'an question-and­answer encounters (wen-ta) between practitioners. Later Ch'an literature is filled with such encounters, but it is startling to see them in such an early text and in such a developed form…

Yuan (section 50) speaks of escaping karma-the force of the effects of intentional actions in this and past lives that binds one to the wheel of the rebirth process-through a Singularity, an act of will: "When you are on the verge of seizing a lofty sense of willpower [jo yu-ch'u yuan-i shih], bondage and habit energy will surely melt away." He is iconoclastic, consistently criticizing reliance on the Dharma, reliance on teachers, reliance on meditative practice, reliance on canonical texts. Faith in Buddhist teachings and teachers, praxis according to the traditional rules, and learning in scripture lead to nothing but self-deception and confusion. From this stance Master Yuan never budges. His relentless boldness prefigures much in the stance of the full-blown Ch' an tradition.

He does speak positively of one thing. He calls it "bodily energy" (t'i-ch'i) or "spirit" (ching-shen). The first is a general term for physical strength, and the latter is found in classical Taoist texts, the Chuang Tzu and the Lieh Tzu, where it means the spirit or mind associated with Heaven, and in medical works, where it means vim, vigor, or stamina. This is not the only classical Taoist terminology he employs, for he says that if one evinces even the slightest desire to advance in religious training, "ingenious artifice" (ch'iao-wei) gains the upper hand. This term also comes from the Chuang Tzu. Energy and spirit are all a practitioner needs (sections 51 and 55-56):

If you have bodily energy, you will avoid the deceptive delusions of people and Dharma, and your spirit will be all right. Why? Because when you esteem knowledge, you are deceived by men and Dharma. If you value one person as correct, then you will not avoid the deceptive confusions of this person .... If you desire to cut off crafty artifice, don't produce the thought of enlightenment and don't use knowledge of the sutras and treatises. If you can accomplish this, then for the first time you will have bodily energy. If you have spirit, do not esteem understanding, do not seek Dharma, and do not love knowledge, then you will find a little quietude .... If you can understand that intrinsically there is neither quiescence nor disturbance, then you will be able to exist of yourself. The one who is not drawn into quiescence and disturbance is the man of spirit.

edited from The Bodhidharma Anthology, Jeremy L. Broughton (bold characters not in original)