Another master said, “Speaking when silent, silent when speaking, the gate of great generosity opens with nothing blocking the way.” Speaking when silent. Did Yaoshan give a talk? If so, what did he say? What did the myriad forms explain on their own? What did Vimalakirti express with his silence, a silence that filled heaven and earth? What was Yaoshan’s form, extending out in the ten directions with nothing blocking the way? The superintendent, not understanding Yaoshan’s teaching, followed after him, You said you were going to give a talk. Why didn’t you?” Yaoshan’s teaching wasn’t perceived. Not being perceived it couldn’t be realized. Not being realized it couldn’t be manifested. There’s also silence when speaking. Sometimes that’s just because we’re talking but we’re not saying anything. Sometimes it’s speaking without moving the tongue or lips. Who is it that’s speaking?
Yaoshan was a teacher. The sangha was his responsibility. It was his whole life. He didn’t want to just let them rot. So why hadn’t he given a talk in a while? Was he just being lazy? Did he not have anything to say? Why did he respond in this way to the superintendent’s question: “For sutras there are sutra teachers, for treatises, there are treatise teachers. Why do you question this old monk?” Why are you bothering me?
In the pointer it says, “Eyes, ears, nose, tongue—each has one ability.” Each organ is perfectly created to perceive within its own sphere. The eye perceives objects. The ears perceive sounds. We can see this perception as being limited to one sphere, one ability, or we can see it as freedom. We can understand the senses as the means we use to create the self and therefore suffering, or we can see them as the gate to liberation. “The eyebrows are above.” Everything in its place, everything fulfilling its own purpose. “Warriors, farmers, crafters, merchants—each returns to a job.” They all have their own work to do, their own skill. You don’t ask a soldier to plant next year’s crops, or a farmer to engineer a bridge, or a merchant to perform surgery. “The unskilled one is always at leisure. How does a real Chan master devise techniques?” What kind of unskillfulness is he talking about? What are the necessary tools of the trade for a person of the Way?
The commentary says, The hungry will eat anything. The thirsty will drink anything. It’s true. It’s easy to be appreciative when you feel the edge of hunger. I read an article recently about altruism which said that studies consistently show that the people who give the most are those who have the least, and those who give the least are those who have the most. Is that because the people who have the least know what it’s like to lack?
An old master said, “Nowadays many people take the dharma lightly. I would be like a farmer who lets the fields dry from time to time to make them parched and thirsty. After that, when water is poured on, then the crops sprout easily.” I remember a story Daido Roshi told years ago of a sesshin he did in New Zealand. One morning during zazen he got up and left the zendo and went into the dokusan room to start face-to-face teaching, except nobody noticed that he’d left. The jisha didn’t notice, the monitors didn’t notice—everybody just kept sitting. Daidoshi waited in the dokusan room for a while, but no one came, so he changed out of his robes, got in the car and drove into town to have breakfast. I don’t think that happened again.
But why did Yaoshan do what he did? Everyone knows that when teachers say too much, they spoil students. Then students become reliant on the teacher and forfeit their own ability. What happened during the time that Yaoshan wasn’t giving a talk? Were those students just walking around grumbling, waiting for the teachings? Did they put everything on hold, thinking they couldn’t practice, couldn’t encounter the dharma, couldn’t do anything until the teaching was expounded? That’s why that old master said, “Deep within a hut, there’s a thunderous tongue. Let the myriad forms explain for themselves.” As Daidoshi says, there’s a teaching that has no teacher.
There’s an interesting story involving Yaoshan. A monastic came to him and said, “I have doubt, and I ask you to resolve it for me.” Yaoshan responded, “Wait until I go into the hall tonight to speak and ask about it then. I’ll resolve it for you.” That evening Yaoshan entered the hall, and when everybody was there he asked for the monk, “Where’s the monk that came to me today to resolve his doubt?” The monastic came forward and stood there, and Yaoshan got down, grabbed and shook him, then called out, “Hey everybody! This monastic has doubt!” He then released the monk and went back to his room. Later, Wansho said, “Do you say he resolved the monastic’s doubt or not? If he resolved it, where was it resolved? If he didn’t resolve it, then say whether your own doubt was resolved.” How did he resolve the monastic’s doubt? Did he? Can he? Or did he just magnify it? What kind of generosity is that? I’ll bet that monk sat well and hard after that little encounter.