Monday, February 27, 2012

A Zen Story

After having his enlightenment confirmed by his teacher, the Fifth Patriarch, Hui-Neng was given the Buddha's bowl and robe, which had been passed down from teacher to student through many generations.  The teacher, knowing other monks would be envious, sent Hui-Neng away from the monastery for his own safety.

Several monks indeed became very jealous and out of envy pursued Hui-Neng to take the treasure away from him.  Of his many pursuers, Hui-Neng once said, "One particular monk named Ming, who's secular name was Chin, was the foremost of those pursuing me.  He had been a general of the fourth rank as a layman.  In character and action, he was very rough and outspoken, and most assiduous in pursuit."

When Ming finally caught up to Hui-Neng, and catch him he did, Hui-Neng placed the bowl and robe on a stone in the road and told Ming, "These objects are just symbols of the Way.  There is no use fighting over them.  If you want them, go ahead and take them."

When Ming went to take them, they were heavier than lead and he could not lift them off of the stone at all.  Trembling for shame, he said, "I came wanting the teaching, not the material treasures.  Please teach me."

Hui-Neng said, "Think neither good nor evil.  At such a moment, what is the true self?"

At those words, Ming was awakened.  Perspiration breaking out all over his body, he cried and bowed before Hui-Neng, saying, "You have given me the secret words and meanings.  Is there yet a deeper part of the teaching?"

Hui-Neng said, "What I have told you is no secret at all.  When you realize your own true self, the secret belongs to you."

Ming said, "I practiced under the Fifth Patriarch for many years  but could not realize my own true self  until now.  Through your teaching, I have found the source.  It is like a person who drinks water and knows for himself  whether it is warm or cold.  May I call you my teacher?"

Hui-Neng replied, "We both studied under the Fifth Patriarch.  Call him your teacher, but treasure what you have attained."

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