How Amazing! How Amazing!

A Douglas fir expounding the Dharma. Hear it with your eyes!
The Master, whose personal name was Liang-chieh, was a member of the Yu family of Kuei-chi. Once, as a child, when reading the Heart Sutra with his tutor, he came to the line, "There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind." He immediately felt his face with his hand, then said to his tutor, "I have eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue, and so on; why does the sutra say they don't exist?"

This took the tutor by surprise, and, recognizing Tung-shan's uniqueness, he said, "I am not capable of being your teacher."

From there the Master went to Wu-hsieh Mountain, where, after making obeisance to Ch'an Master Mo, he took the robe and shaved his head. When he was twenty-one he went to Sung Mountain and took the Complete Precepts.

The Master set out on pilgrimage, and, going first to visit Nanch'üan, he arrived when preparations were under way for Ma-tsu's memorial banquet.

Nan-ch'üan posed the following question for the assembly, saying, "Tomorrow, we will pay homage to Ma-tsu. Do you think he will return or not?"

No one offered a reply, so the Master came forward and said, "He will come as soon as his companion is present."

Nan-ch'üan said, "This fellow, though young, is suitable for being cut and polished."

The Master replied, "Ho-shang, do not crush what is good into something mean."

Next the Master made a visit to Kuei-shan and said to him, "I have recently heard that the National Teacher Chung of Nan-yang maintained the doctrine that nonsentient beings expound the Dharma. I have not yet comprehended the subtleties of this teaching."

Kuei-shan said, "That teaching also exists here. However, one seldom encounters someone capable of understanding it."

Tung-shan said, "I still don't understand it clearly. Would the Master please comment."

Kuei-shan raised his fly wisk, saying, "Do you understand?"

"No, I don't. Please, Ho-shang, explain," replied Tung-shan.

Kuei-shan said, "It can never be explained to you by means of the mouth of one born of mother and father."

Tung-shan asked, "Does the Master have any contemporaries in the Way who might clarify this problem for me?"

"From here, go to Yu-hsien of Li-ling where you will find some linked caves. Living in those caves is a man of the Way, Yün-yen. If you are able to 'push aside the grass and gaze into the wind,' then you will find him worthy of your respect," said Kuei-shan.

Tung-shan accordingly took leave of Kuei-shan and proceeded directly to Yün-yen's. Making reference to his previous encounter with Kueishan, he immediately asked what sort of person was able to hear the Dharma expounded by nonsentient beings.

Yün-yen said, "Nonsentient beings are able to hear it."

"Can you hear it, Ho-shang?" asked Tung-shan.

Yün-yen replied, "If I could hear it, then you would not be able to hear the Dharma that I teach."

"Why can't I hear it?" asked Tung-shan.

Yün-yen raised his fly whisk and said, "Can you hear it yet?"

Tung-shan replied, "No, I can't."

Yün-yen said, "You can't even hear it when I expound the Dharma; how do you expect to hear when a nonsentient being expounds the Dharma?"

Tung-shan asked, "In which sutra is it taught that nonsentient beings expound the Dharma?"

Yün-yen replied, "Haven't you seen it? In the Amitabha Sutra it says, 'Water birds, tree groves, all without exception recite the Buddha's name, recite the Dharma.'"

Tung-shan was suddenly enlightened and immediately composed the following gatha:

How amazing, how amazing!
Hard to comprehend that nonsentient beings expound the Dharma.
It simply cannot be heard with the ear,
But when sound is heard with the eye, then it is understood.

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