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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
66 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 6 sometimes called Zen sickness. I have experienced it myself and have seen it in many students over the years. Our tendency to become addicted to one view persists even when we are liberated from our old view. This condition can cause great harm. I have known teachers who were masters of the non-dual yet stuck in a narrow version of awakening where nothing matters. In this place, the precepts are seen as empty, and there is a rationale for anything: lying (because there is no truth), sleeping with students (because there are no consequences), and flaunting all of the precepts in general, in a sense of ungrounded, self-justified freedom. In this state, kindness and compassion go out the window. After awakening, it was customary for Zen stu- dents to go on pilgrimage to meet other Zen teachers who could challenge them to see if their new insight was genuine. One of the most famous of Deshan’s encounters during his post-awakening journey was with Guishan, a master who was a contemporary of Longtan’s but in another lineage. Guishan was famous for using symbolic gestures in his teaching. Deshan barged into Guishan’s Dharma Hall, with- out any adherence to proper behavior. He walked from west to east, and east to west, and then said, “Nothing, nothing.” Guishan did not pay any spe- cial attention to Deshan. Deshan left the hall. What a lovely response from Guishan! No amount of correction will convince someone who is stuck in emptiness that forms still matter. Zen students respond to different kinds of teaching, and some- times what is most effective for one student won’t have any influence on another. So, sometimes we use words and other times silence or action. Deshan himself, in his mature teaching years, was known to hit people with a stick to shake them from their clinging to emptiness. And as we saw in Case 13 from the Gateless Gate, in his old age he had become more like Guishan. As Deshan reached the gate of Guishan’s monastery, he said to himself, “Maybe I was too hasty” and returned to Guishan’s Dharma Hall. This time he made his proper bows to Guishan, but then picked up a cushion and shouted, “Master!” Guishan started to raise his ceremonial whisk, but Deshan shouted again, shook his sleeves and left the hall a second time. That evening, Guishan asked the head monk what had happened to the new arrival. The head monk said, “When all that happened, he turned his back to the Dharma Hall, put on his shoes, and left.” Guishan said, “That young fellow will some- day ascend to the top of a lonely peak and build a hermitage, where he will laugh at the Buddhas and curse the ancestors.” —adapted from a translation by Andy Ferguson in Zen’s Chinese Heritage Here we see Deshan’s Zen maturing before our eyes. Bowing to forms even a little, the relative and the absolute views begin to merge into one awakened life. Guishan’s appreciation of the young Deshan formed an accurate prediction: eventually, Deshan settled in a monastery on Mount De and began his teaching career. He was a strong teacher, never allowing his students to rest in any view. When students appeared before him who were lost in reverence, he challenged their piety. When they appeared as rebels, he challenged their lack of piety. Meeting circumstances as they arise, making mistakes, forgetting names and forms—these are only a problem if we hold to some idea about being on top of everything.