THE KANSHIKETSU

Rev. Shundo Aoyama relates (in her book Zen Seeds): “The Zen term kanshiketsu literally means ‘shit-stick.’ In China, a monk calling on Zen Master Yun-men asked, ‘What is a buddha?’ Yun-men replied, ‘A dried shit-stick.’ When the abbot or any of the teachers is away from a temple for a week or so, the novices think nothing of it. But if there were no toilet paper, they would quickly feel its absence! Shit-sticks, which were used in former days for the same purpose, could be washed and re-used any number of times. Shit-sticks become dirty to clean us. If these are not buddhas, what is? Out of gratitude for them, I recognize the shit-stick as a buddha.”

About Mind

MIND
Chan master Fa-yen (Fayan, 885-958) interrupted an argument among some monks concerning the relationship of mind to reality by posing to them a question: “Over there is a large boulder. Do you say that it is inside or outside your mind?” One of the monks replied, “From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so that I would have to say that the stone is inside my mind.” Quipped Fa-yen, “Your head must be very heavy!”

MIND: PART TWO
Chan master Huang-po (Huangbo, d.850s) said: “Many people are afraid to empty their own minds lest they plunge into the Void. Ha! What they don’t realize is that their own Mind is the Void.”

MIND: PART THREE
Huang-po is said to have been unusually tall. Master Nan-chu’an couldn’t help but remark: “Your body is unusually big—isn’t your straw hat too small?” Huang-po replied: “Perhaps… but the entire universe is within it.”

BROTHER DISCIPLES

The illustrious reviver of Korean Son (Zen) for the modern era, master Kyongho Song-u (1846-1912), had many great dharma-successors. The most formidable was Mangong Wolmyon (1871-1946). Once, Mangong and Suwol (1855-1928), an older dharma successor of Kyongho, were sitting together in conversation. Suwol picked up a bowl of browned rice, a favorite Korean snack, and spoke in the paradoxical language typical of Son/Zen: “Don’t say this is a bowl of browned rice. Don’t say this is not a bowl of browned rice. Just give me one word.” Mangong reached over, took the bowl from Suwol and threw it out of the window. Suwol was very pleased, “Very good. That’s wonderful!”

THE POET AND THE MASTER

Garma C. Chang relates the story of Su Tung Po, a celebrated poet and devout Buddhist of the Song Dynasty, who was close friends with Fo Ying, a brilliant Chan master. Fo Ying’s temple was on the Yang-tse River’s west bank, while Su Tung Po’s house stood on the east bank. One day Su Tung Po paid a visit to Master Fo Ying and, finding him absent, sat down in his study to wait. Finally bored with waiting, he began to scribble poetic verses on a sheet of paper he found on a desk, signing them with the words, “Su Tung Po, the great Buddhist who cannot be moved even by the combined forces of the mighty Eight Worldly Winds.” (These are gain, loss, defamation, eulogy, praise, ridicule, sorrow and joy.) After a while longer of waiting, Su Tung Po got tired and left for home.

When Master Fo Ying returned and saw Su Tung Po’s composition on the desk, he added the following line after the poet’s signature line: “Rubbish! What you have said is not better than breaking wind!” and sent it to Su Tung Po. When Su Tung Po read this outrageous comment, he was so furious that he crossed the river on the nearest boat, and hurried once again to Fo Ying’s temple. Catching hold of the master’s arm, Su Tung Po cried: “What right have you to denounce me in such language? Am I not a devout Buddhist who cares only for the Dharma? Are you so blind after knowing me for so long?”

Master Fo Ying looked at him quietly for a few seconds, then smiled and slowly said: “Ah, Su Tung Po, the great Buddhist who claims that the combined forces of the Eight Winds can hardly move him an inch, is now carried all the way to the other side of the Yang Tse River by a single puff of wind from the colon!”