Pen-chi of Ts'ao-shan
Questions and Answers


Yün-men asked: "If a person who is difficult to change should come to you, would you receive him?"
The master answered: "Ts'ao-shan has no such leisure."

Monk Ch'ing-jui asked: "I am lonely and poor. Please help me, Master."
"Teacher Jui, please come near."
As Jui went near, the Master said: "Someone drank three cups of wine brewed by the House of Pai in Ch'üan-chou, and still said that his lips were not wet."

Ching-ch'ing asked: "What is the Principle of Pure Vacuity like, since after all it has no body?"
The Master said: "The Principle is originally like that. Where did facts [the external world, body] arise?"
Ching-ch'ing said: "Principle is the same as facts and facts are the same as Principle."
The Master said: "It is all right to insult Ts'ao-shan himself, but what are you going to do with all the divine eyes [that is, how can you cheat all wise men]?"

A monk said: "Your disciple is sick all over. Please cure me."
The Master said: "I shall not cure you."
The monk said: "Why don't you cure me?"
The Master said: "So that you neither live nor die."

A monk asked: "Aren't monks persons of great compassion?"
The Master said: "Yes."
The monk asked: "Suppose the six bandits [sensuous desires] come at them. What should they do?"
The Master answered: "Also be compassionate."
The monk asked: "How is one to be compassionate?"
The Master said: "Wipe them out with one sweep of the sword."
The monk asked: "What then?"
The Master said: "Then they will be harmonized."

A monk asked: "Master, are the eye and the eyebrow acquainted with each other?"
The Master answered: "Not acquainted."
The monk asked: "Why not acquainted?"
The Master said: "They are in the same place."
The monk asked: "Why are they not separated?"
The Master said: "The eyebrow is not the eye and the eye is not the eyebrow."
The monk said: "What is the eye?"
The Master answered: "To the point!"
The monk asked: "What is the eyebrow?"
The Master said: "I have my doubts."
The monk asked: "Why do you doubt?"
The Master said: "If I don't doubt, it would mean to the point."

A monk asked: What kind of people are those who avoid the company of all dharmas?"
The Master said: "There are so many people in the city of Hung-chou. Where would you say they have gone?"

A monk asked: "In admitting phenomenon, what is true?"
The Master said: "Phenomenon is truth and truth is phenomenon."
The monk asked: "How is that revealed?"
The Master lifted the tea tray.

A monk asked: "How is illusion true?"
The Master answered: "Illusion is originally true."
The monk asked: "How is illusion manifested?"
The Master answered: "Illusion is manifestation and manifestation is illusion."

Question: "What kind of people are those who are always present?"
The Master said: "It happens that Ts'ao-shan has gone out for a while."
Question: "What kind of people are those who are always absent?"
The Master said: "Difficult to find such."

A monk asked: "What did Patriarch Lu indicate by facing the cliff?"
The Master covered his ears with his hands.

A monk asked: "An ancient wise man said, 'There has never been a person who, having fallen to the ground, does not rise from the ground.' What is falling?"
The Master said: "The fact is recognized."
The monk said: "What is rising?"
The Master said: "Rising."

Question: "In the teachings we have received, it is said, 'The great sea does not harbor a corpse.' What is the great sea?"
The Master said: "It embraces all things."
The monk asked: "Why not harbor a corpse?"
The Master said: "He whose breath has stopped clings to nothing."
The Master continued: "Things are not its accomplishments, and the breathless has its own character."
The monk asked: "With regard to progress toward the highest truth, is there anything else?"
The Master said: "It is all right to say yes or no, but what are you going to do with the Dragon King who holds the sword?"

A monk asked: "How can silence be expressed?"
The Master said: "I will not express it here."
The monk said: "Where will you express it?"
The Master said: "Last night at midnight I lost three pennies by my bed."

The Master asked the monk: "What are you doing?"
The monk answered: "Sweeping the floor."
The Master said: "In front of the Buddha figure or behind it?"
The monk answered: "Both at the same time."
The Master said: "Give your sandals to Ts'ao-shan."

A monk asked: "What kind of companions in the Path should one associate with so that one may always learn from what one has not learned?"
The Master said: "Sleep in the same bed."
The monk said: "This is still what the monks have learned. How can one always learn from what one has not learned?"
The Master said: "Different from trees and rocks."
The monk asked: "Which is first and which is afterward?"
The Master said: "Not seeing the Path, one can always learn from what one has not learned."

A monk asked: "Who is the one who holds the sword in the state?"
The Master said: "Ts'ao-shan."
The monk said: "Whom do you intend to kill?"
The Master said: "I shall kill all."
The monk said: "Suppose you suddenly met your parents. What will you do?"
The Master said: "Why discriminate?"
The monk said: "But there is yourself!"
The Master said: "Who can do anything about me?"
The monk said: "Why not kill yourself?"
The Master said: "No place to start."

A monk asked: "What kind of people are always sinking into the sea of life and death?"
The Master answered: "The second month."
The monk said: "Don't they try to free themselves?"
The Master said: "Yes, they do but there is no way out."
The monk said: "If they are free, what kind of people will accept them?"
The Master said: "Prisoners."

A monk raised a case [koan], saying: "Yo-shan asked me how old I was. I said seventy-two. Yo-shan asked, 'Is it seventy-two?' When I said, 'yes,' he struck me. What is the meaning of that?"
The Master said: "The first arrow is bad enough. The second one will penetrate even deeper."
The monk asked: "How can the beating be avoided?"
The Master said: "When the imperial edict is in force, all the feudal lords yield the way."

A monk asked Hsiang-yen: "What is the Path?"
Hsiang-yen answered: "There is music from [the wind blowing at] the dried wood."
The monk asked: "Who are those in the path?"
Hsiang-yen answered: "There is an eye-pupil in the skull."
The monk did not understand and went to ask Shih-shuang what is meant by music from the dried wood. Shih-shuang said: "There is still joy there."
The monk said: "What about the eye-pupil in the skull?"
Shih-shuang said: "There is still consciousness there."
The monk did not understand either. He presented the case to the Master, who said: "Shih-shuang is a Shravaka [who attains enlightenment on hearing the teachings of the Buddha] and therefore takes such a view." Thereupon he showed the monk the following verse:

When there is music from dried wood, the Path is truly seen.
The skull has no consciousness; the eye begins to clear.
When joy and consciousness [seem to be] at an end, they are not so.
Who discriminates what is clear amidst what is turbid?
Thereupon the monk again asked the Master: "What does it mean by music from the dried wood?"
The Master said: "Life is not cut off."
Question. "What does it mean by an eye-pupil in the skull?"
The Master answered: "It is not dried up."
Question. "Is there anything more?"
The Master said: "Throughout the world not a single person has not heard."
Question: "From what poem is 'There is music from dried wood'?"
The Master said: "I don't know what poem." All of those who heard him were disappointed.

Question: "What is the basic meaning of the Law of the Buddha?"
The Master said: "Filling all streams and valleys."

Question: "Whenever there is any question, one's mind is confused. What is the matter?"
The Master said: "Kill, kill!"

From Sources of Chinese Tradition (de Bary, Chan and Watson, ed. and trans.), pp. 363ff.

Typed 31 March 1995