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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
spring 2006| 96 |buddhadharma dharma dictionary The Chinese term Huihu, an impor tant concept within the Caodong sect of Chan, first appeared in Shi tou Xigian’s text, Cantongqi. This text, known in Japanese as the Sandokai, is an indispensable part of the canon of Soto Zen, and is recited in Soto temples daily. Huihu – a central concept within the Can- tongqi – means “transposition,” or “inter action.” It refers to the phenomenal interchange between polar entities, like winter emerging into spring or vice versa, or vexations transformed into liberation or vice versa. Hui means “return” and hu means “mutually,” so a literal translation of the concept would be “mutual return to the state (of the other).” What huihu really offers is an expan sive view of the impermanence of every thing. Huihu synthesizes this fundamental Buddhist tenet with the Taoist principle of the interplay of polar opposites in nature, whose philosophical roots can be traced to the I Ching. The Caodong sect’s use of huihu, as taught by Chan masters still to this day, is most interesting when it is used to describe the experiences one encounters in practicing meditation. As one proceeds along the various stages toward ultimate liberation or complete enlightenment, there is an ongoing inter play (huihu) between vexations and wisdom (or liberation), rather than a sim plistic removal of vexations. In describing the transposition (huihu) between vexa tion and liberation, the Cantongqi says, In the midst of brightness, there is darkness. Do not take darkness as darkness. In the midst of darkness, there is brightness. Do not take brightness as brightness. Brightness and darkness correspond, like one step following another. Brightness here refers to wisdom, liber ation, and enlightenment, whereas dark ness refers to vexation, bondage, and confusion. Every practitioner will some times experience “brightness” and at other times “darkness,” as they continue along the path of meditation. What these verses are trying to tell us is that brightness and darkness are huihu. They will mutually transpose, so it is not sensible or helpful to be discouraged by the darkness one encounters nor to fixate on the brightness attained or longed for. Vexations, once they are let go of and removed within practice, can unexpectedly lead straight to enlightening experiences. Enlightening experience, no matter how blissful, will soon die out and cover you up with clouds of vexations if you try to grasp it. If you feel wisdom, remember that vexation – its polar opposite – is hiding behind its back. Brightness and darkness will always alternate along the path of practice, until you go beyond the realm of dichotomy. At that point, one encounters neither vexa tions nor wisdom, which is what we would call no huihu. There is no more transposi tion encountered in the practice. The great Caodong master Hongzhi, who first artic ulated the method of silent illumination, said, “When the seeing [of selfnature] is complete, huihu rests.” That is cessation, ultimate liberation, beyond the most bliss ful event we could hope to attain. In describing the path to liberation, the founder of the Caodong sect, Master Dongshan, delineated five stages of enlight enment (illustrated by the circles at the top of the page) according to the nature of the transposition – huihu – between vexation and liberation. In his description, “sub sidiary” corresponds to darkness, and “central” corresponds to brightness. The first stage, “subsidiary within cen tral,” signifies that though the practitioner has had a glimpse of selfnature, darkness still dominates. Vexation, however, trans poses into wisdom, as the practice grows. This notion is essentially the same as the verse from the Cantongqi, “In the midst of brightness, there is darkness.” At the next stage, “central within sub sidiary,” vexation has fallen into the back ground and wisdom has come to the fore, signified in the illustration by brightness at the top. The practitioner feels the advance ment of practice, and the mind is cleared more and more of vexation. At the third stage, “coming of cen tral,” the practitioner feels as if vexations have been totally subdued, with wisdom manifesting endlessly. However, vexation is only covered by wisdom, not eradicated, as represented by the small circle of dark ness within the dominant brightness. The practitioner can still manifest vexation when strongly provoked. With the next stage, represented by the fourth circle, there is the arrival of both central and subsidiary, brightness and darkness, which dissolve into a non dichotomous whole that subsumes the parts. The complete absence of vexation manifests as wisdom (or vice versa). In the circle, there is only brightness, or, indeed, emptiness. At the ultimate level, reaching this final stage means the subtle attachment to wisdom is let go. Vexation can be used as wisdom in liberating oneself or oth ers. Attachment even to buddhadharma would be a hindrance at this point. The realm of absolute freedom is rep resented by the fifth circle, the circle of darkness, signifying the capability of using vexation as wisdom. Ultimately, the practitioner is liberated from both the attachment to the self and to the bud dhadharma. Huihu, or transposition, and the practice itself, are complete. huihu defined by Wing Shing chan Wing Shing Chan haS STudied CloSely WiTh MaSTer Sheng yen and iS a freelanCe WriTer on Chan BuddhiSM. he liveS in hong Kong. The five levels of enlightenment according to the Caodong (Soto) school of Buddhism. 1 2 3 4 5