Baizhang Huaihai
Caoshan Benji
Dahui Zonggao
Daman Hongren
Danxia Tianran
Dayi Daoxin
Dazhao Puji
Dazhu Huihai
Dazu Huike
Deshan Xuanjian
Dongshan Liangjie
Guifeng Zongmi
Guishan Lingyou
Guizong Zhichang
Heze Shenhui
Hongzhi Zhengjue
Huangbo Xiyun
Huanglong Huinan
Jinshan tanying
Linji Yixuan
Longtan Chongxin
Luohan Guichen
Mazu Daoyi
Nanquan Puyuan
Nanta Guangyong
Nanyang Huizhong
Nanyue Huairang
Niutou Farong
Qingliang Wenyi
Qingyuan Xingsi
Shishuang Chuyuan
Shitou Xiqian
Tianhuang Daowu
Xiangyan Zhixian
Xitang Zhizang
Xuansha Shibei
Xuedou Chongxian
Xuefeng Yicun
Yangqi Fanghui
Yangshan Huiji
Yantou Quanhuo
Yaoshan Weiyan
Yongjia Xuanjue
Yongming Yanshou
Yunmen Wenyan
Yunyan Tansheng
Yuquan Shenxiu
Zhaozhou Congshen
Caoshan Benji
Founder of Caodong House
POSTH name
Master YanZheng
Dongshan Liangjie
Caoshan Huixia, Yuwang Hongtong
A collection of the recorded conversations, short writings, and sayings of Pen-chi of Ts'ao-shan
CAOSHAN BENJI (840–901) was a foremost disciple of Dongshan. He was so closely associated with his teacher that their names were used together to form the name of their Zen school, Caodong. Caoshan came from ancient Quanzhou (a place still called Quanzhou in modern Fujian Province). When a youth, he studied Confucianism. Leaving home at the age of nineteen, Caoshan entered Lingshi Monastery in Fuzhou. When he received ordination at the age of twenty-five, Zen Buddhism was flourishing in Tang dynasty China. Later, after becoming Dongshan’s Dharma heir, Caoshan started a new temple in Fuzhou and named it Cao Shan (Mt. Cao), after the Sixth Ancestor, whose mountain name was derived from Cao Xi (Cao Creek). Thereafter, Caoshan lived and taught at Mt. Heyu, and is said to have changed the name of that place to Cao Shan as well. Caoshan used Dongshan’s “five ranks” as a method of instruction, leading to its wide use in Zen monasteries. This helped differentiate Caodong Zen as a unique Zen school.
Caoshan’s fame spread widely after he wrote a commentary in praise of verses composed by the famous poet Hanshan. These selections are taken from the Transmission of the Lamp.
Upon meeting Caoshan, Dongshan said, “What is your name?”
Caoshan said, “Benji.”
Dongshan said, “What is your transcendent name?”
Caoshan said, “I can’t tell you.”
Dongshan said, “Why not?”
Caoshan said, “There I’m not named Benji.”
Dongshan then realized that this disciple was a great Dharma vessel.
After starting study under Dongshan at this time, Caoshan remained for many years and realized the secret seal of Dongshan’s teachings.
Later, when Caoshan left Dongshan, Dongshan said, “Where are you going?”
Caoshan said, “I’m not going to a different place.”
Dongshan asked, “You’re not going to a different place but there is still ‘going’?”
Caoshan said, “I’m going, but not to a different place.”
A monk asked, “Who is it that is not a companion to the myriad dharmas?”
Caoshan said, “Tell me, where is it that many people in Hongzhou are going?”
A monk asked Caoshan, “Can the eyebrows and the eyes distinguish each other or not?”
Caoshan said, “They can’t distinguish each other.”
The monk said “Why not?”
Caoshan said, “Because they’re in the same place.”
The monk said, “If that’s so, one couldn’t tell them apart.”
Caoshan said, “Eyebrows, after all, are not eyes.”
The monk asked, “What are eyes?”
Caoshan said, “[Eyes are] what is upright.”
The monk said, “What are eyebrows?”
Caoshan said, “I’m not sure.”
The monk said, “Why is the master not sure?”
Caoshan said, “If one lacks doubt, one is upright.”
The monk said, “What truth is there in form?”
Caoshan said, “Form is truth.”
The monk said, “How would you demonstrate this?”
Caoshan picked up his tea cup saucer.
The monk asked, “How can illusion be truth?”
Caoshan said, “Illusion is fundamentally truth.” ([Later,] Fayan commented, “Illusion is fundamentally not truth.”)
The monk asked, “When illusion is faced, what is revealed?”
Caoshan said, “Illusion is revealed.” (Fayan said, “Illusion is not faced.”)
The monk said, “In that case, then from start to finish one can’t escape illusion.”
Caoshan said, “But if you pursue illusive forms you can’t attain them.”
A monk asked, “Who is the person who is here forever?”
Caoshan said, “Just when you encounter Caoshan, he is instantly revealed.”
The monk asked, “Who is the one who is never here?”
Caoshan said, “Hard to find.”
The monk Qingrui said to Caoshan, “I am alone and destitute. Master, please give me some assistance.”
Caoshan said, “Worthy Rui, come here!”
Qingrui came forward.
Caoshan said “You already drank three cups of Quan Province ‘Hundred Houses’ wine, yet you still say your lips are not wet.”
Yunmen asked, “The unchanging person has come. Will the master receive him or not?”
Caoshan said, “On Mt. Cao there’s no spare time for that.”
A monk asked, “An ancient said, ‘Everyone has brothers in the dust.’ Can you demonstrate this to me?”
Caoshan said, “Give me your hand.”
Caoshan then pointed at the monk’s fingers and counted, “One, two, three, four, five. That’s enough.”
A monk asked, “What was Luzu trying to show when he faced the wall?”
Caoshan covered his ears with his hands.
Caoshan asked Venerable Qiang, “The true body of Buddha is like vast emptiness. When a thing appears there, it is like the moon reflected in water. How would you express this teaching?”
Qiang said, “It’s like a donkey looking into a well.”
Caoshan said, “You’ve said a lot, but you’ve only gotten eighty percent of it.”
Qiang said, “What would you say, Master?”
Caoshan said, “It’s like the well looking at the donkey.”
A monk asked, “From old times there’s a saying, ‘Until a person has fallen down, the earth can’t help him arise.’ What is ‘fallen down’?”
Caoshan said, “It’s allowing.”
The monk asked, “What is ‘arise’?”
Caoshan said, “It’s ‘arise.’”
A monk asked, “There’s a teaching that has the words, ‘The great ocean does not harbor dead corpses.’ What is the ocean?”
Caoshan said, “It includes everything.”
The monk said, “Why doesn’t it include corpses?”
Caoshan said, “Those who have ceased breathing are not manifested.”
The monk said, “Since it includes everything, why are those who’ve stopped breathing not manifested?”
Caoshan said, “The myriad things don’t have this ability. The cessation of breath has moral power.”
In the summer of [the year 901], Caoshan asked a monk, “What month and day is this?”
The monk said, “It’s the fifteenth day of the sixth month.”
Caoshan said, “Caoshan has traveled his entire life. Everywhere it is observed that a summer has ninety days.”
The next day during the hour of the dragon [7–9 A.M.] Caoshan died. He was sixty-two years old and had been a priest for thirty-one years. He was cremated on the west side of the mountain. He received the posthumous name “Zen Master Evidence of the Source.” His stupa was named ”Blessed Perfection.”
Contact us
© Copyright