2011-06-02

Don't Beat the Dog

Koan of the Week
Gateless Gate #15
Dongshan Shouchu’s Sixty Blows

Featuring Yunmen Wenyan (Ummon Bun’en, 864-949), 13th Generation.
Line: Shitou (8th Gen.) to Tianhuang to Longtan to Deshan to Xuefeng to Yunmen.
Yunmen appears in 27 koans in the three collections (Gateless Gate, Blue Cliff Record, Book of Serenity) – much more than any other figure. In this case, Yunmen appears with his disciple Dongshan Shouchu (Tozan Shusho, 910-990), not to be confused with the founder of the Caodong (Soto) “House,” Dongshan Liangjie (Tozan Ryokai, 807-869).

THE CASE
When Dongshan Shouchu went to Yunmen for instruction, Yunmen asked, "Where have you come from?"
Dongshan said, "From Sado."
Yunmen said, "Where were you during the summer retreat?"
Dongshan said, "At Hozu monastery, south of the lake."
Yunmen said, "When did you leave there?"
Dongshan said: "On the twenty-fifth of August."
Yunmen said: "I spare you sixty blows."
The next day Dongshan cam up to Yunmen and asked, "Yesterday you spared me sixty blows though I deserved them. I beg you, sir, where was I at fault?"
Yunmen said, "Oh, you ricebag! Have you been wandering about like that now west of the river, now south of the lake?"
At this, Dongshan had great realization.
WUMEN’S COMMENT AND VERSE
At that time, if Yunmen had given Dongshan the essential food of Zen and awakened him to an active Zen spirit, his family gate would not have become so desolate. Dongshan struggled with himself in agony all through the night and at daybreak came to Yunmen again. Yunmen gave him a further push to break through. Although Donghsan attained realization immediately, he still could not be called bright. Now I ask you, does Dongshan deserve sixty blows with the stick or not? If you say he does,then all the trees, grasses, thickets, and groves should be beaten. If you say he does not, then Yunmen is telling a lie. If you grasp this clearly, you are breathing through one mouth with Dongshan.

The lion has a puzzling way of teaching its cubs:
The cubs crouch, leap and spring back swiftly;
Unintentionally, he gave a checkmate again,
The first arrow was light, but the second went deep.

You've been sent to face the two-headed hellhound,
Deserve-Not-Deserve --
To release us from its devouring terror.
Heracles!
Not by wrestling will this dog be conquered.
Cross the river of death;
Come to the beast in its lair.
Pick one head.
Doesn’t matter which.
Feed only that,
and an indiscriminate diet.
If you pick “deserve,” feed everything into “deserve.”
Everything!
As quickly as you can get your hands on it.
If you pick “not deserve,” feed everything into “not deserve.”
The head you feed will grow tame.
The other, nothing to chew on, will lose its teeth
One by one – it takes a while.
The dog will be your companion,
And your true labors will at last begin.

* * *

Next: Maybe Better Go Naked

Previous Koans of the Week:
Staff Issues
The Old In and Out
What Is the Sound of an Arrow Hitting Oatmeal?

Pangs of the Layman:
The Increase of Mystery
To Recognize, Look
Hard (Or Easy) To Swallow
Prayers That Reach the Gods. Or Not.
"Shut up," he explained.