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
Xiangyan Zhixian
POSTH name
Chan Master Xideng
Baizhang Huaihai
Monk of Changping Mountain
XIANGYAN ZHIXIAN (d. 898) was a disciple of Guishan. He came from ancient Qingzhou (the modern city of Yidu in Shandong Province). Extremely intelligent and quick witted, Xiangyan first studied under Baizhang, but was unable to penetrate the heart of Zen. After Baizhang died, Xiangyan studied under Guishan. Despite his cleverness, he was unsuccessful at realizing his teacher’s meaning. Years later, his mind far removed from his earlier confused attempts to attain what he thought to be enlightenment, Xiangyan realized the great way. The following passage is from the Transmission of the Lamp.
One day, Guishan said to Xiangyan, “I’m not asking you about what’s recorded in or what can be learned from the scriptures! You must say something from the time before you were born and before you could distinguish objects. I want to record what you say.”
Xiangyan was confused and unable to answer. He sat in deep thought for a some time and then mumbled a few words to explain his understanding. But Guishan wouldn’t accept this.
Xiangyan said, “Then would the master please explain it?”
Guishan said, “What I might say would merely be my own understanding. How could it benefit your own view?”
Xiangyan returned to the monks’ hall and searched through the books he had collected, but he couldn’t find a single phrase that could be used to answer Guishan’s question.
Xiangyan then sighed and said, “A picture of a cake can’t satisfy hunger.”
He then burned all his books and said, “During this lifetime I won’t study the essential doctrine. I’ll just become a common mendicant monk, and I won’t apply my mind to this any more.”
Xiangyan tearfully left Guishan. He then went traveling and eventually resided at Nanyang, the site of the grave of National Teacher Nanyang Huizhong. One day as Xiangyan was scything grass, a small piece of tile was knocked through the air and struck a stalk of bamboo. Upon hearing the sound of the tile hitting the bamboo, Xiangyan instantly experienced vast enlightenment.
Xiangyan then bathed and lit incense. Bowing in the direction of Guishan, he said, “The master’s great compassion exceeds that of one’s parents! Back then if you had explained it, then how could this have come to pass?”
Xiangyan then wrote a verse:
One strike and all knowledge is forgotten.
No more the mere pretense of practice.
Transformed to uphold the ancient path,
Not sunk in idle devices.
Far and wide, not a trace is left.
The great purpose lies beyond sound and form.
In every direction the realized Way,
Beyond all speech, the ultimate principle.109
Xiangyan then dispatched a monk to take the verse to Guishan and recite it.
Upon hearing it, Guishan said to Yangshan, “This disciple has penetrated!”
Yangshan said, “This is a good representation of mind function. But wait and I’ll personally go and check out Xiangyan’s realization.”
Later Yangshan met with Xiangyan and said, “Master Guishan has praised the great matter of your awakening. What do you say as evidence for it?”
Xiangyan then recited his previous verse.
Yangshan said, “This verse could be composed from the things you’ve studied earlier. If you’ve had a genuine enlightenment, then say something else to prove it.”
Xiangyan then composed a verse that said:
Last year’s poverty was not real poverty.
This year’s poverty is finally genuine poverty.
In last year’s poverty there was still ground where I could plant my hoe,
In this year’s poverty, not even the hoe remains.
Yangshan said, “I grant that you have realized the Zen of the Tathagatas. But as for the Zen of the Ancestors, you haven’t seen it even in your dreams.”
Xiangyan then composed another verse that said:
I have a function.
It’s seen in the twinkling of an eye.
If others don’t see it,
They still can’t call me a novice.
When Yangshan heard this verse, he reported to Guishan, “It’s wonderful! Xiangyan has realized the Zen of the Ancestors!”
When Xiangyan assumed a position as abbot, Guishan sent him a message along with a staff.
When Xiangyan received them he exclaimed, “Blue heavens! Blue heavens!”
A monk asked, “Why is the master acting this way?”
Xiangyan said, “Because of an evil moon and flourishing weeds.”
Zen master Xiangyan entered the hall and addressed the monks, saying, “The Way is attained by means of enlightenment and is not found in words. It is mysterious and majestic, and without the slightest breach. Don’t belabor your mind! Just turn the light inward. Those disciples using total effort every day to realize enlightenment are just backward and confused.”
A monk asked, “What is Xiangyan’s great situation?”
Xiangyan said, “Don’t fertilize the flowers and trees.”
A monk asked, “What is a ‘sindhava’?”110
Xiangyan struck the meditation platform and said, “Come here!”
Xiangyan entered the hall and addressed the monks, saying, “Talking about this, you could compare it to a person who has climbed a tree and is grasping a branch, supported only by his teeth. His feet are hanging freely, as are his hands. Suddenly someone down on the ground yells out to him, ‘What is the meaning of the First Ancestor coming from the west?’ To not answer isn’t acceptable, but if he does so he’ll fall, and so lose his life. At this very moment what can he do?”
At that time a monk named Tiger Head Zhao came forth from the congregation and addressed Xiangyan, saying, “Leaving aside the question of the tree top, I ask the master to comment about before climbing the tree.”
Xiangyan then laughed, “Ha, ha.”
Zen master Xiangyan had a verse that said:
The chick pecks from within, the hen from without.
The chick breaks free through the shell.
When hen and chick are both gone,
The function has not gone astray.
Singing the same song,
The mystical voice goes on alone.
To all of his disciples, Xiangyan provided his teachings in a clear and direct manner. He left more than two hundred verses such as this one that were composed to meet the situations he encountered. These unmetered verses were popular throughout the country.
Xiangyan received the posthumous name “Zen Master Harmonious Light.”
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