The first line says, “Priest Deshan was a scholar of the Diamond Sutra.” The footnote to that line is: “Although he’s like an overburdened mule, still there is a fragrant air about him.” Deshan was not only carrying his commentaries of the Diamond Sutra, his head was filled with them. He wasn’t searching when he went to the South. There was no opportunity for anything to enter, because his cup was full. And yet, there was something special about him. That’s the fragrant air.
When Deshan arrived at Longtan’s monastery, he said, “For a long time I heard about the Dragon Pool. But now that I have arrived, I see neither the dragon nor the pool.” Longtan means “dragon pool.” It is the home of the dragon, the heart of being. The footnote I added to that line says, “There is little doubt that he is blind, the question is, what kind of blindness is it?” To appreciate that question we need to understand the five kinds of blindness in Zen. The first is the blindness of the heretic who’s just not interested in the teachings at all. The second is the blindness of ignorance. The third is the blindness of enlightenment: no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind—the complete falling away of body and mind. The fourth kind of blindness is holding on to enlightenment. The fifth is transcendental blindness, where we are free to function in the world without any attachments. So the question is, what kind of blindness does Deshan have at this point? He doesn’t see the dragon, he doesn’t see the pool.
Longtan said, “You have arrived personally at the dragon pool.” The footnote says, “This is too intimate a statement for him; he doesn’t get it.” “You have personally arrived at the dragon pool,” means there is no separation between you and the dragon pool. But Deshan is in no state of mind to appreciate that yet. So he just bowed and walked off. Later that evening he was talking to Longtan and before he left, the master lit a paper lamp for him. As Deshan was about to take it, Longtan blew out the light. The footnote says, “Teacher, student, temple, discussion, all taken by the sheer darkness. Nothing remains.” Deshan suddenly experienced great enlightenment and made a full bow. The footnote: “What did he see?” Longtan presses him, “What did you see that made you bow?” The footnote asks, “Easy to say, but what is it really?” Deshan said, “From now on I will not doubt your words.” I added, “Bah! He should be driven out. First it was the sutra hanging from his nostrils, now it’s a teacher. Where are your own provisions?” Deshan was hooked on the sutras first. Then it was the teacher, “I will not doubt your words,” he said. Doubt them! Question them, challenge them, and balance that questioning with great faith in the process. Great faith, great doubt, and great determination are what ultimately lead us to realization. On the following day Longtan gave a talk in the dharma hall and said, “There is a person here, his fangs are like swords, his mouth like a tray of blood. When I give him a blow he will not turn his head. Someday he will get to the top of a solitary peak and stand on my path and advance.” The footnote to that says, “Like an over-meddling grandparent, he spoils the child.” It is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Deshan already had a big ego. He has a little bit of insight and Longtan lavishes him with praise. Wrong! He should have driven him out. Deshan takes out his books of commentaries, holds up a torch in front of the dharma hall and says, “Investigating commentaries is like placing a hair in vast emptiness. It’s like adding a drop of water to an ocean on essential matters in the world.” He then burned his books and bowed. The footnote to that says, “Blind! He tosses out the baby with the bathwater.” There is nothing wrong with the sutras. Painted cakes do indeed satisfy hunger. But it’s like anything else—the minute we attach to them, we separate ourselves from them.