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Zen Not Just about Knowledge

Zhixian visited Zen Master Weishan, who asked him: “It is said that during your visit to Zen Master Baizhang, if he raised one question you could give ten answers; if he raised ten questions, you could give one hundred answers. Is that true?”

Zhixian said: “I dare not say so.”

Zen Master Weishan said: “Very smart answer, but it is not beneficial to the understanding of life and death. Now, I have one question for you: what is your real identity before your parents gave birth to you?”

Zhixian had no idea about this question. After thinking for a long time, he asked the Zen master for the answer.

Weishan replied: “What I know is none of your business. If I tell you directly, you would blame me when you find out the truth.”

Getting no answer from the Zen master, Zhixian went back and tried looking for one from a variety of books and classics, but he failed. So he swore: “I will not study Buddhism any more. From now on, to be a monk traveling around.”

Zhixian took leave of Zen Master Weishan and then arrived in Nanyang. He saw the relics of Master Huizhong and stayed there. One day, when he was weeding in the garden, a piece of rubble was kicked up and hit the bamboo with a tinkling sound which suddenly enlightened Zhixian. He went back to his room for a bath and burned incense. After that he knelt down towards the direction where Zen Master Weishan was and said, “Master, your grace is greater than what my parents gave me. If you had told me the answer at that time, how can I be enlightened today?” So, he sent a poem to Zen Master Weishan, saying:

One hit makes me forget what I used to know and the spiritual practice;

I would have no chance to learn it by myself if you had told me the truth.

The truth has no solid shapes, but you can learn it from sounds, colors and appearances;

Every master who knows the truth says that the best way is to experience.”

Zen, cannot be learnt by lecturing, but by experiencing. Zen, is not vocal or written. You know what you say and write, but others don’t. Zen, without the use of words, implies a superior method of learning it – experiencing.

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