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This talk was originally given on Tuesday 26th October at Crosby Hall in Little Crosby, north of Liverpool. Sensei refers to Case 23 of the Mumonkan, for which a translation is given below (not the one that Sensei used, but close!).
Note also that this case refers to an incident in the life of Daikan Eno (Huineng) that was covered in my recent post on him – check it out if you need a refresher!
Case 23 Think Neither Good Nor Evil
The Sixth Patriarch was pursued by the monk MyÅ as far as Taiyu Mountain.
The patriarch, seeing MyÅ coming, laid the robe and bowl on a rock and said, “This robe represents the faith; it should not be fought over. If you want to take it away, take it now.”
MyÅ tried to move it, but it was as heavy as a mountain and would not budge. Faltering and trembling, he cried out, “I came for the Dharma, not for the robe. I beg you, please give me your instruction.”
The patriarch said, “Think neither good nor evil. At this very moment, what is the original self of the monk MyÅ?”
At these words, MyÅ was directly illuminated. His whole body was covered with sweat. He wept and bowed, saying, “Besides the secret words and the secret meaning you have just now revealed to me, is there anything else, deeper still?”
The patriarch said, “What I have told you is no secret at all. When you look into your own true self, whatever is deeper is found right there.”
MyÅ said, “I was with the monks under ÅŒbai for many years but I could not realize my true self. But now, receiving your instruction, I know it is like a man drinking water and knowing whether it is cold or warm. My lay brother, you are now my teacher.”
The patriarch said, “If you say so, but let us both call ÅŒbai our teacher. Be mindful to treasure and hold fast to what you have attained.”
The Sixth Patriarch was, so to speak, hurried into helping a man in an emergency, and he displayed a grandmotherly kindness.
It is as though he peeled a fresh lichi, removed the seed, put it in your mouth, and asked you to swallow it down.
You cannot describe it; you cannot picture it;
You cannot admire it; don’t try to eat it raw.
Your true self has nowhere to hide;
When the world is destroyed, it is not destroyed.
(Translated by Katsuki Sekida, available at www.sacred-texts.com/bud/zen/mumonkan.htm)