Citation from Dogen Zenji's SHIN-FUKATOKU 山水經
The Mind-Unattainable (Selections)
Flowers of Emptiness, trans. by Hee Jin-Kim
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SHAKYMUNI Buddha said: "The past mind is unattainable, the present
mind is unattainable, and the future mind is unattainable. This is what
buddha-ancestors investigate throoughly. Within the unattainable, they
have carved out the cave of the of past, present and future; even so,
they have been making the cave of the self. The self here is the
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Ch'an [Zen] Teacher Te-shan Hsuan-chien once claimed to have
throroughly understood the Diamond Sutra. He even declared himself
to be Chou-the-Master-of-the-Diamond-Sutra, and boasted of being
well versed in the Ch'ing-lung-shu. He also authored twelve works of
writing, and no expounder seems to have equalled him. Despite all this,
he was a descendant of those dharma teachers of words and letters.
One day, he learned that in the southern region there was a supreme
Buddha-dharma of correct transmission. He became so enraged that he
[set out toward the south] crossing mountains and rivers, carrying his
sutras and books with him. On a later occasion he happened to hear
about the assembly of Ch'an [Zen] Teacher Hsin in Lung-t'an.
On his way to join the assembly, he stopped to rest for a while. Just at
that time an old woman came by and also stopped to rest by the roadside.
Expounder Chien [Hsuan-chien] asked: "What are you?" The old woman
said: "I am an old woman selling cakes." Te-shan said: "Give me some."
The old woman asked: "Reverend, what do you buy them for?" Te-shan
replied: "for a snack [tien-hsin]." Then the old woman asked: "You are
carrying quite a few things, but what are they, Reverend?" Te-shan said:
"Don't you know that I am Chou-the-Master-of-the-Diamond-Sutra? (**)
I know everything there is to know about the Diamond Sutra."
Hearing this, the old woman spoke: "I once heard that in the Diamond
Sutra it is written: 'The past mind is unattainable, the present
mind is unattainable, and the future mind is unattainable.' Which
mind are you going to light with cakes (*) and how? If Reverend can
answer, I will sell you some; if not, I won't." Te-shan was too
dumbfounded to respond. Thereupon the old woman went off in
disgust, and without selling any cakes to him.
It is regrettable that the expositor of several hundred volumes, the
expounder of several decades, when asked a simple question by a
humble woman, succumbed right away without even being able to
respond. This is due to the fact that there is an enormous difference
between meeting a true mentor, receiving guidance from him/her, hearing
the true Dharma and not hearing the true Dharma, not meeting a true
mentor. It was on this occasion that Te-shan said for the first time:"
Pictured cakes cannot stop hunger!" Today we are told that Te-shan
succeeded Lung-tan's Dharma.
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(*) Translator's note:
light the mind with cakes: Here the old woman is adroitly
playing with the word tien-hsin, the meaning of which varies, i.e.,
"lunch," "snack," "light meal," etc., but whose lexical components
mean "to light or feed the mind."
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(**) Notes from Zen Taoism:
The lowly, nameless old woman in some Chinese Taoist stories,
intuitive incarnation of the Ancient Tao itself.