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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over

Volume 1




Grape Hand and Eye  

   The first Ch’an session is already gone by, and now the second Ch’an session is starting. You should all take stock to see if in the week gone by you have had any accomplishment. Accomplishment means an enlightenment. Some enlightenments are big, and some are small; some are middle-sized. Enlightenments are not the same.

   As for those who did not become enlightened (wu), they also got some “thing” (wu). Why didn’t you become enlightened? It is because there was some “thing” in your mind. What was that “thing” in your mind? “Every day I’m participating in this Ch’an session because I want to become enlightened.” That thought of wanting to become enlightened is a “thing”.

   When the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas of the ten directions look at you, they say, “You spineless ghost! Here you are sitting in meditation investigating Ch’an, and you want to become enlightened.” What enlightenment do you expect to open? You’re not developing your skill well. You just give rise to greed.  

   Your greed for enlightenment is also just greed. The thing that directly prevents you from becoming enlightened. If you weren’t greedy then you could really sit. “You hurt, legs? Hurt a little more! No matter how much they hurt, I am going to sit in meditation. No matter how much they hurt, I am going to investigate Dhyana.” You want to fight the pain. Wage war. Don’t harbor the greedy thought, “Ah, I’m joining in the Ch’an session because I hope to get enlightened.” That’s just plain filthy. That kind of hope is what’s meant by impure thought. It’s a filthy thing that you’ve got caught in your mind.  

   Don’t be like Patriarch k’uei Chi. What was he like? All he thought of from morning to night was eating. He also was greedy, you can tell from how fat he was. If he wasn’t 500 pounds, he must been at least 488. That’s how fat he was. And why? Just because he was interested in eating good food. I’m not slandering him. If Patriarch K’uei Chi came here this very minute, I’d tell him this to his face. He was greedy for food.

   What’s there to prove that he was greedy for food? Contemporary to him was a Vinaya Master named Tao Hsuan, who lived at Chung Nan Mountain. He was stern and pure in his maintenance of the Vinaya rules—he had cultivated to perfection the 3,000 awesome mannerisms and 80,000 subtle practices. His cultivation was so good that the gods were moved to give him offerings. Every day, it was not necessary for him to make food himself. Nor was it necessary for men to make offerings to him. How did he get by then? The gods made offerings to him.

   There he was, living in a hut on Chung Nan Mountain and experiencing this inconceivable state. Just to speak about the fact that the gods made offerings to him—if he didn’t have any cultivation, or Way virtue, if he had not held the precepts purely and sternly, how could gods have given him offerings? If you strike up false thoughts from morning to night and develop excessive habits of climbing on conditions, gods certainly won’t come. Gods don’t make offerings to ghosts who climb on conditions. They don’t make offerings to those who do not keep the precepts.  

   So the gods made offerings to the Vinaya Master, Tao Hsuan, and Patriarch K’uei Chi’s gluttony got the better of him. From morning to night he struck up false thoughts. “Of all the food and drink known to man—delicacies of every description—I’ve tasted them all. But, ultimately, what is the flavor of heavenly food? He kept striking up that false thought for a long time. “I’ve got to go there for a meal and have a taste of heavenly food and drink. What can the flavor of heavenly food be? Is it sweet, sour, hot, bitter, salty? Or, perhaps it completely transcends those five flavors and is a flavor above an beyond them—a sixth flavour— perhaps pleasant, perhaps unpleasant. I’ve got to try it out.”

   It wasn’t just for one day that he had those false thoughts. Day after day for many days he had them, until the day came when he was determined to go have a meal. He didn’t take an attendant or a companion; he slipped away all by himself and headed for Chung Nan Mountain. He climbed up Chung Nan Mountain thinking about how he wanted to eat the offerings of the gods. Who would have guessed that in the end he wouldn’t get his meal!  

   On the appointed day he rose quite early and dressed lightly so that he could walk swiftly and easily. But, he was so portly that, even though he had dressed lightly, it was still not easy going. It may have been that he even began to perspire; at the very least he was soon out of breath. From Ch’ang An to Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan’s hut was a distance of at least 35 miles. So, he got up extremely early and began the long trek, allowing himself enough time so that he could make it by noon. He didn’t let Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan know he was coming. He hadn’t said, “I am coming to join you for lunch, so tell the gods to bring along a little extra.” He hadn’t let anyone know. So, he arrived unannounced about ten minutes before time to eat.  

   When he arrived there, he said to Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan, “I’ve heard that you are a Vinaya Master to whom the gods make offerings. In Ch’ang An I have eaten all the fine flavors that man has to offer. But, I have yet to taste the flavor of heavenly fare. Can you give me a share of your food today and allow me to join you in your meal?”  

   Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan scratched his head as he thought. “I certainly have to agree.” So he said, “Fine, when the food arrives, we will share it. The worst that can happen is that we won’t get full. No problem.” After he agreed, they waited. Ten minutes passed. Ten more minutes passed. Ten more minutes passed. Ten by ten, the minutes kept passing. Originally he had arrived ten minutes before time to eat, but after several hundred tens of minutes, the afternoon was gone, and still the gods had not brought any food.

   Dharma Master K’uei Chi, who was really able to put it away, had been dying for a meal of heavenly food, but now, not only had he not tasted the food of the gods, but he hadn’t even gotten a bit of food of the earth! He basically didn’t get anything to eat at all. The two of them went hungry that day, and Patriarch K’uei Chi’s stomach objected. It kept growling. His belly complained, “Hey, why didn’t you give me anything to eat today? How can you face me when you act like that?” It complained, but there was nothing he could do about it, so he decided to go to sleep. “I can’t pay any attention to whether or not you have food to eat, stomach; it’s dark now, and so I’m going to sleep.”  

   Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan held the precepts, and he had eaten the food of the gods for a long time now, so his stomach was better behaved and did not complain. It didn’t growl. What I’m telling you is true. It’s all been recorded.  

   “Why haven’t I even read that historical account?” someone wants to know.  

   You haven’t read enough books. If you had read The Sutra of Food and Drink, you would know.   

   Dharma Master K’ue Chi went to sleep, and Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan sat in meditation. As soon as Dharma Master K’uei Chi fell asleep, he entered the sleeping samadhi. In the sleeping samadhi, he rang bells and beat drums.

   How was it that he rang bells? Every few minutes his hand would flop around and bang on the table, and the table would sound out like a bell. And his snoring was like thunder. His bells and drums rang out like he was doing morning and evening recitation, until Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan’s mind moved, and he thought, “Ai, he behaves like that, and yet he is a National Master. How can someone who’s a National Master sleep in such an unruly fashion and disturb other people? Here I am trying to enter samadhi, and I can’t even do it. He’s so busy with his bells and drums.” On top of it all, his stomach was growling; it sounded like an automobile engine turning over and over. So Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan sat there having false thoughts about Dharma Master k’uei Chi’s qualifications to be a National Master. But, he couldn’t quite bring himself to rouse the National Master out of his sleep. Right when he was sitting there in meditation having those false thoughts, the lice on his body began to bite him.  

   Since he was an old cultivator, he rarely bathed. He lived in a hut, and most likely there weren’t any bathing facilities. Although the gods brought him food, they didn’t come to bathe him. I know that for certain. So, a louse bit him, and he carefully took it off and looked at it. It was really fat, and he saw clearly how many legs it had. Now, people who hold the precepts cannot kill. To kill is a violation of the precepts. So, he let the louse fall gently onto the floor. When he dropped it, he broke two of the louse’s legs.

   After a while, another louse bit him. And, it bit so hard that when he took it off, he probably used a little more force in pitching it to the ground, and the louse was crushed to death upon landing. But Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan did not know this. His act of killing was unintentional. It was not premeditated. But, the louse was put out. It went to king Yama and complained about Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan. “He’s supposed to hold precepts. What precepts does he hold? Just now he killed me. I want his life.”

   Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan was unaware that he had killed it. The next day Dharma Master K’uei Chi woke up, and Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan scolded him. “Here you are a National Master. Why is it that you don’t have any cultivation? You haven’t developed any skill at all. When you sleep, it sounds like a drum and bugle corps. You snore like thunder. It’s really terrible. How can you be a National Master?”  

   K’uei Chi laughed and said, “Great Vinaya Master, you have cultivation, and you hold the precepts. Last night you took two fleas off your body, and the first you dropped broke two of its legs. Take a look, you can still see it on the ground beside you. And, the second flea you threw to the ground was smashed to death. That flea went to King Yama and complained about you, saying that you were not a Vinaya Master. You hold precepts, and still you smash flees to death.”  

   Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan wondered, “How could he have known about that? He was sleeping like a log. And, when he searched around on the ground, he found one flee with two broken legs and one dead flee. Now, as to the truth there was in all of this, as to how Dharma Master K’uei Chi knew about the two fleas, Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan did not ask. Those who hold the precepts find that the less they talk, the less likely they are to violate the precepts. So, he was silent. He neither admitted it, nor took issue with it.  

   Dharma Master K’uei Chi said, “Vinaya Master, you have violated the precepts and still are not repentant. You say that the gods give you offerings. You are just cheating people. I came for a meal. Why didn’t any gods come with offerings? You’ve just been selfish. Now I’ve come to take a look, and basically there’s nothing to it. I’m leaving.” And he flapped his sleeves and left as if in a huff.  

   Dharma Master K’uei Chi left early, and at noon the god Lu Hsuan Ch’ang came once again with offerings. When he arrived, Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan—although he was an old bhiksu who held the precepts—was a bit put out, and he asked Lu Hsuan Ch’ang, “Why didn’t you bring any offerings yesterday? Yesterday, not to speak of me going hungry for a day, there was a guest who came for the meal, and he had to go hungry along with me. What were you doing yesterday? If you were not going to come and bring me offerings, then you should have let me know a day in advance. How could you do that?”  

   Lu Hsuan Ch’ang knelt before Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan and said, “Actually, it’s not that I did not bring it. For a radius of 40 li around your hut there was a dazzling, golden light, and I couldn’t even open my eyes. I tried to take a step forward, but there was no way. Finally, I asked the local earth spirit what was going on, and he said that there was a living Bodhisattva of the Great Vehicle here with you, and I couldn’t bear up under his light. I kept circling that 40 li radius, but there was no way that I could get to you. So, I have committed this offense.”  

   When Lu Hsuan Ch’ang spoke, Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan understood. “Oh, Dharma Master K’uei Chi is a flesh body Bodhisattva of the Great Vehicle. And, while he was here, the god could not penetrate his golden light. My Way-virtue is still not up to his. No wonder he’s a National Master, and I am a Vinaya Master. Although the gods give me offerings, my reward of blessings is still not comparable to his.” So Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan made a special point of going before Dharma Master K’uei Chi to repent. Dharma Master K’uei Chi said, “Oh, bag it!”

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