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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
fall 2 0 1 5 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 59 in brothels, had concubines, and was a very wealthy merchant; he was the embodiment of the truth that samsara is nirvana. So only one disciple agreed to go visit Vimalakirti: Manjushri. But when everyone saw that Manjushri was going, they knew that it was going to be a showdown, so now they all wanted to go. Manjushri and Vimalakirti did have a show- down on the teaching of nonduality—they both saw right through each other. This is what’s happening here, except Zhaozhou went alone, perhaps intentionally. If he had brought his students, his cover would have been blown. Zhaozhou came back and instilled this unsurpass- able question in the heart of his students: “What is it that our teacher has seen through? What does this ‘straight ahead’ mean?” The questions were the same, And so were the answers. In the cooked rice, there is sand; In the mud, there are thorns. Some of the lines in this verse may seem like they express hidden impurities—sand in rice and thorns in mud—but they are just stock expressions in Chan of the impossible. The point is, don’t put sand in the rice that you eat and don’t drag your feet in mud when you walk. Instead, walk on a clear path. How can you cook sand and expect to get rice? If you think you can, then you will be walking in mud with thorns—everywhere you go you will be poked. Wumen uses these Chan expressions to warn people in their Chan practice. Why? Because this is exactly what people do in practice: they try to cook sand