Zen Koan Case 23: Hui-neng Neither Good nor Evil


The Sixth Ancestor was pursued by Ming the head monk as far as Ta-yü Peak. The teacher, seeing Ming coming, laid the robe and bowl on a rock and said, “This robe represents the Dharma. There should be no fighting over it. You may take it back with you.”
Ming tried to lift it up, but it was as immovable as a mountain. Shivering and trembling, he said, “I came for the Dharma, not for the robe. I beg you, lay brother, please open the Way for me.”
The teacher said,
“Don’t think good; don’t think evil.
At this very moment, what is the original face of Ming the head monk?”
In that instant Ming had great satori. Sweat ran from his entire body. In tears he made his bows saying, “Beside these secret words and secret meanings, is there anything of further significance?”
The teacher said, “What I have just conveyed to you is not secret. If you reflect on your own face, whatever is secret will be right there with you.”
Ming said, “Though I practiced at Huang-mei with the assembly, I could not truly realize my original face. Now, thanks to your pointed instruction, I am like someone who drinks water and knows personally whether it is cold or warm. Lay brother, you are now my teacher.”

The teacher said, “If you can say that, then let us both call Huang-mei our teacher.

Maintain your realization carefully.”




Case 16 is from the book:

The Gateless Barrier is generally acknowledged to be the fundamental koan collection in the literature of Zen.

Gathered together by Wu-men (Mumon), a thirteenth-century master of the Lin-chi (Rinzai) school, it is composed of forty-eight koans, or cases, each accompanied by a brief comment and poem by Wu-men.

Robert Aitken, one of the premier American Zen masters, has translated Wu-men’s text, supplementing the original with his own commentary — the first such commentary by a Western master — making the profound truths of Zen Buddhism accessible to serious contemporary students and relevant to current social concerns.

What is a KOAN?

A koan is a surprising or paradoxical word or phrase, taken from an anecdote, that is used as an object of meditation in traditions descended from Chinese Chan Buddhism, like Japanese Zen. Contemplating these words is part of the training given by a teacher to help a Buddhist student to awaken.”  Read more

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