RYUGIN 龍吟 Song of the Dragon
from Soto Zen Text Project, translated by Carl Bielefeldt
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  A monk once asked the Great Master Xideng of Xiangyan zi,
"What is the way?"

The master said, "The dragon song in the dried tree."

The monk said, "I don’t understand."

The master said, "The eyeball in the skull."
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Later, a monk asked Shishuang, "What is the dragon song in the dried tree?"

Shuang said, "Still harboring joy."

The monk said, "What is the eyeball in skull?"

Shuang said, "Still harboring consciousness."
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Again, a monk asked Caoshan, "What is the dragon song in the dried tree?"

Shan said, "The blood vessel not severed."

The monk said, "What is the eyeball in the skull?"

Shan said, "Not entirely dried up."

The monk said, "Well, can anyone hear it?"

Shan said, "On the whole earth, there isn’t one who can’t hear it."

The monk said, "Well, what passage does the dragon sing?"

Shan said, "I don’t know what passage it is.
Everyone who hears it loses his life." (*)

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(*) Translator's Note:
"Everyone who hears it loses his life" (monja kai so 聞者皆喪): Or "All who hear it are to be mourned"; taking 'so' here as in soshitsu 喪失 ("loss"). The expression "to relinquish one’s body and lose one’s life" (soshin shitsumyo 喪身失命) is regularly used in Chan for the experience of awakening.

(*) Notes on the 3 exchanges, by Hubert Nearman
These three short dialogues are typical of many kōan stories that involve a Master and someone identified only as a monk. The monk—presumably a novice—asks a question based on an attempt to understand some saying by an Ancestor from a commonplace, literal perspective, whereas the Master gives a response as if the monk had asked his or her question from a spiritual perspective. This is done to help the monk break through a dependence on worldly ways of thinking. That is, in the above three cases the monks think that what they are quoting is somehow about mythical creatures called dragons, whereas the Masters are pointing the monks to a deeper meaning of the term ‘Dragon’, that is, they are pointing to one’s innate Buddha Nature.
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(Zen Master) DOGEN ZENJI'S (道元禅師)
(Gender Inclusive) STUDIES OF THE WAY (學道) | (INDEX)
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