2011-04-21

Prayers That Reach the Gods. Or Not.

Note: Shitou's question about wearing black or white refers to becoming a monk (wearing black) or not.
One day Shitou said to Pang, "I've come to visit you. What have you been doing?"
Pang said, "If you're asking what I do every day, there's nothing to say about it."
Shitou said, "What did you think you were doing before I asked you about it?"
Pang made up a verse:

What I do every day
Is nothing special:
I simply stumble around.
What I do is not thought out,
Where I go is unplanned.
No matter who tries to leave their mark,
The hills and dales are not impressed.
Collecting firewood and carrying water
Are prayers that reach the gods.

Shitou approved, saying, "So, are you going to wear black or white?"
Pang said, "I will do whatever is best."
It came to pass that he never shaved his head to join the sangha.
(The Sayings of Layman Pang, #2: "Subtleties of Daily Life")


The stew has ten thousand ingredients.
There is a single quarter-slice sliver of carrot in the ladle.
It tracelessly abides.
You may say, "The stew would be different without it" -- this is impossible.
The impossibility of otherwise: this is tracelessness.
Or: It leaves a mark, all right: a mark
Indistinguishable from
The effect of the whole --
A mark without impress to hill or dale, master or novice:
An unseen movement of lips silently praying.