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Old Woman’s Question on Mind

Master Deshan, whose religious name was Xuanjian and family name was Zhou, became a Buddhist monk at Xingkong Temple. He was proficient at Vinaya Pitaka and a variety of sutras, especially The Diamond Sutra, for which he was called Diamond Zhou. Once he even wrote a poem, saying “When a clam takes a gulp of water in the sea, the sea is still as quiet as before; when a thin mustard leaf is cut by the knife, the knife is still as sharp as before; only I know the difference between the learned and the unlearned!”

At that time, Zen Buddhism was very popular in southern China. Deshan despised Zen Buddhism and said, “Even if a Buddhist monk spends thousands of years learning the dignity and manners of the Buddha, he still cannot become a true Buddha. However, some evil monks in the south even dare to brag that one does not need written sutras but by knowing oneself one can become a Buddha. To reward the benevolence of Buddha, I will find and destroy their den and eliminate them.” Therefore, he took with him Dragon Annotations – his annotations of The Diamond Sutra, and went to the south to fight against Zen monks.

One day when Deshan arrived at Fengyang, he was very hungry. He saw an old woman selling fried cakes nearby, so he went to her and thought about buying some cakes.

The old woman meant to be tough with Deshan by asking him, “What are you taking with you?” Deshan answered, “It is Dragon Annotations.”

The old woman continued to ask, “What is it about?” Deshan answered, “About The Diamond Sutra.”

The old woman said, “If you can answer my question, I will give you something to eat, or you should go and buy your food elsewhere.”

Then the old woman said, “Since your Dragon Annotations is about The Diamond Sutra, which says that ‘past thought is not got at; future thought is not got at; present thought is not got at. ’, then what do you think of your thought of buying some cakes? Can it be got at?”

Deshan found no words to reply, so he had to go on his trip with an empty stomach.

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