I’ve been reading from the book “The Recorded Sayings of Layman P’ang”. I wrote about poetry of Layman Pang in older post here. Pang, even though he was never ordained, was a Chinese Zen Buddhism master, he was also a rich merchant. He lived in China between A. D. 740 and 808. When in his middle age he loaded all his possessions into a boat and sank it and started a life of a itinerant “travelling around China and visiting various Buddhist masters while earning a living by making and selling bamboo utensils” [source]. He had a wife, daughter and son. His wife and daughter, especially his beloved daughter Ling-chao (Spirit Shining), obtained profound understanding of Sutras and Chan Buddhism. The book consists of “encounter dialogues” between Pang and Chan masters he met during his travel… please allow me to add – surreal, absurd, non-sensual dialogues filled with slaps administrated generously by Pang to his interlocutors. I managed to go through the whole book, not understanding too much from it… however those few gems I have found on its pages are – in my opinion – of great beauty, wisdom and wit (shockingly those puns sound more like something Monty Python would have come up with in 70s rather than coming from religious master from before 12 hundreds years ago).
WHEN THE LAYMAN took leave of Yueh-shan, the Master had ten Ch’an students accompany him as far as the gate. There the Layman, pointing to the snow in the sky, said: “Lovely snow! Flake after flake does not fall another place.”
“Where do they fall?” asked the Ch’an student Ch’uan.
The Layman gave him a slap.
THE LAYMAN WAS once lying on his couch reading a sutra. A monk saw him and said:
“Layman! You must maintain dignity when reading a sutra.”
The Layman raised up one leg.
The monk had nothing to say.
THE LAYMAN WAS SITTING in his thatched cottage one day. “Difficult, difficult, difficult,” he suddenly exclaimed, “[like trying] to scatter ten measures of sesame seed all over a tree!”
“Easy, easy, easy,” returned Mrs. P’ang, “just like touching your feet to the ground when you get out of bed.”
“Neither difficult nor easy,” said Ling-chao. “On the hundred grass-tips, the Patriarchs’ meaning.”
THE LAYMAN WAS ONCE selling bamboo baskets. Coming down off a bridge he stumbled and fell. When Ling-chao saw this she ran to her father’s side and threw herself down.
“What are you doing!” cried the Layman.
“I saw Papa fall to the ground, so I’m helping,” replied Ling-chao. ” Luckily no one was looking,” remarked the Layman.
THE LAYMAN WAS about to die. He spoke to Ling-chao, saying: “See how high the sun is and report to me when it’s noon.”
Ling-chao quickly reported: “The sun has already reached the zenith, and there’s an eclipse.” While the Layman went to the door to look out, Ling-chao seated herself in her father’s chair and, putting her palms together reverently, passed away.
The Layman smiled and said: “My daughter has anticipated me.”
He postponed [his going] for seven days.
The Prefect Yu Ti came to inquire about his illness. The Layman said to him: “I beg you just to regard as empty all that is existent and to beware of taking as real all that is non-existent. Fare you well in the world. All is like shadows and echoes.” His words ended. He pillowed his head on Mr. Yu’s knee and died.
Some people despise old P’ang,
But old P’ang does not despise them.
Opening my gate, I await good friends,
But good friends do not stop by.
As is my mind’s endowed with the threefold learning— [morality, meditation, wisdom]
Consciousness-dusts do not mix with it; [the cognition of the senses]
This one pill cures the ten thousand ills—
I’ve no need for the many prescriptions.
Not wanting to discard greed and anger,
In vain you trouble to read Buddha’s teachings.
You see the prescription, but don’t take the medicine—
How then can you do away with your illness!
Grasp emptiness, and emptiness is form;
Grasp form, and form is impermanent.
Emptiness and form are not mine—
Sitting erect, I see my native home.
Great source of information about Pang and other Zen masters: http://terebess.hu/zen/
“The Recorded Sayings of Layman P’ang” (Translated by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yoshitaka Iriya & Dana R. Fraser) – link.