One piece of empty solidity, beyond saying and feeling; From this, humans and gods see Subhuti. Subhuti was one of the disciples of the Buddha, and there’s a story that he was once practicing on a ledge of a cliff. Brahma appeared and started showering flowers down on him, and Subhuti said, “Who are you, showering flowers down on me?” Brahma responded, “It’s me, Brahma.” Subhuti asked him, “Why are you doing this?” Brahma said, “I honor you for being good at expounding the transcendence of wisdom,” to which Subhuti replied, “I haven’t said a word about wisdom. Why are you offering praise?” Brahma said, “You did not speak, and in this there is true wisdom.” Subhuti wasn’t trying to do anything. So it’s not a matter of contriving to be spiritual. In fact, that contrivance is exactly what has to drop away. We need to stop trying so hard to be someone.
The oyster swallowing, the mysterious rabbit—deep, deep meaning: Having been given to Ch’an people, it makes them fight and struggle. Xuedou is saying that given this koan, students struggle, they wrestle, they fight with the problem the koan has presented them. We all know about this. But what happens in practice is that on the way to resolving what we perceive as the problem, we realize we’re fighting ourselves.
The struggle is with our own mind, with our attachments. When we really understand this, the struggle is almost over. As long as we believe that there’s something out there that is the cause of our suffering, that the struggle we experience is not within ourselves, then it’s not full engagement.
Yuanwu says, “When shields and spears are already at rest, then there’s great peace under heaven. Do you understand? I hit, saying ‘How many blows can you take, Reverend?’” How long is it going to take to put down the shields and spears? Fayan’s verse on perfect reality says:
When reasoning is exhausted, saying
and feeling are forgotten;
How can this be properly described?
Wherever I go, the frosty night’s moon
Falls as it may on the valley ahead.
The fruits are ripe and heavy with
The mountains go on so far it seems I’ve
lost my way.
When I raise my head, there’s a remnant
of illumination left—
Actually this is west of my dwelling
This is free of all contrivance. It’s what Yuanwu is talking about in the pointer when he says, “Purified and naked, free and unbound, hair disheveled, ears alert.” It’s not walking on clouds, it’s not being dressed in white with a golden halo on your head. Deep in the mountains there’s no dazzling display of spiritual achievement.