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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
58 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 1 5 Wumen further stirs up fuss with his comment: The old granny only knew how to sit within her headquarters tent and launch her stratagem to catch the thieves. She did not know that old man Zhaozhou was good at creeping into her tent and menacing her fortress. Furthermore, he did not have the outward marks of a great man. Examining them, both had transgressed. But tell me, where did Zhaozhou see through this old granny? Before warfare, generals sit in tents and devise battle strategies; they direct the army as to what, where, when, and how they should strike. Here, Wumen makes an analogy with the art of war. Who is the enemy? Who are the thieves? Zhaozhou is one. It is he who can easily sneak into her tent and wreak havoc. Why? Because Zhaozhou was a small, scrawny guy. He was so unassuming look- ing, so unthreatening, that people would have easily allowed him to get into the tent without a second thought. Little did they know that if he came into the tent, he would be able to see right through her. In calling Zhaozhou a person “without the marks of a great man,” Wumen suggests that his actions are like those of a thief, sneaking around another per- son’s place. How could a great Chan master do that? However, Wumen is actually praising Zhaozhou for his skill in means and his kindness in setting up a trap for his disciples. A Chan master would do anything to help students. This is very much like what happened between Manjushri and Vimalakirti in the Vimala- kirti Sutra. In Mahayana Buddhism, Vimalakirti, like Manjushri, symbolizes wisdom. The story goes that once Vimalakirti pretended to be sick, and the Buddha, playing along, decided to send his disciples to visit this great man in hopes that he would teach them. But none of the Buddha’s disciples wanted to go because at one time or another, Vimalakirti had shown his superior wisdom and mocked their nar- row views about the buddhadharma. Vimalakirti was particularly confrontational, like a Chan master; if he saw something wrong he would comment on it. He didn’t set up any props or impose preconceived ideas about how practitioners should behave. According to the sutra, he practiced guO gu (JIMMy yu) is the founder of the Tallahassee Chan Center and the Sheng yen associate Professor of Chinese Buddhism at Florida State university. This teaching is from his forthcoming book, Passing Through the Gateless Barrier: Koan Practice for Real Life (Shambhala, 2016). boundaries. In premodern popular fictions, a granny is depicted as a witch or a sorceress. There are many of these old grannies in Chan or Zen stories. Mount Wutai was, and still is, one of the great- est pilgrimage sites in Chinese Buddhism. Even before Chinese Buddhism, it was a great Taoist site, a sacred mountain. It is said to be the abode of Manjushri Bodhisattva, the embodiment of wisdom; pilgrims’ records from premodern times describe encounters there with manifestations of Manjushri. Not only did Chinese pilgrims in premodern times go there, but it is also visited by many Korean and Japanese pilgrims today. So this granny had probably encountered hun- dreds, if not thousands, of these seekers, who always asked for directions to Mount Wutai. She always gave the same answer, “Straight ahead!” As they followed her direction and went straight ahead, she would say, “Yet another fine monk goes off like that!” This expression, in Chinese, has the tone of mockery and indifference. What did she mean? Word got around to Zhaozhou, whose Guanyin Temple was fairly close to this region. Because of the words she spoke and her confrontational, non- deferential manner, people thought that perhaps the granny was a Chan master in disguise. When Zhaozhou heard about her, he went to check her out. So this case took place when Zhaozhou was in his eighties, or even later. He did not have to per- sonally go check out this old granny, but he went out of compassion for his disciples. When he came back, he gathered his monks, who were anxious to hear what had happened. But all he said was, “I went and saw through her.” And then he left. Everyone was dumbfounded, wanting to hear more. That was the genius of Zhaozhou—his ability to stir up a fuss when there was really nothing to be stirred. Yet it was necessary that he do this in order to instill in his students the questioning mind: “What is it that Zhaozhou has seen through?” (Opposite) Landscape (detail) by Fan Song chihonishiDa