The commentary says, “Deshan made the long journey to Southern China in order to discredit the special transmission outside the scriptures only to be defeated by an old woman selling rice cakes who buried him in his own rhetoric.” She used the very thing that Deshan held in high regard—the mind of an expert. Sometimes we need to be a little stupid in this practice, a little naïve.
When I first started training I read everything I could find. Zen teachers kept telling me to stop reading books, but I didn’t take it seriously. I continued to study and regurgitate everything I knew. Finally, one teacher began to stick his fingers in his ears when I started talking. Then I listened and stopped reading. “Since Deshan did not ask for clarification, the old woman did not give any. Deshan finally found his way to Longtan where, although his eyes went blind”—this refers to his great enlightenment, the blindness of no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind—“he nonetheless lost his nostrils.” That is, he gave them away to his teacher. Shame on him, and shame on Longtan for letting it happen. “Yet even in his blindness he was able to find his way to Guishan who tried to get him to step off the hundred-foot pole, but the time was not yet ripe. In the end however, he was finally able to untie that which was bound and see the last word of Zen. Then, carrying his bowls, he followed the clouds and was freely blown by the wind.” This last paragraph refers to a couple of koans that trace Deshan’s maturation as a student, and eventually as a teacher until he reaches a point where he’s just following the clouds and is freely blown about by the wind. In other words, there was nothing rigid or bound in his demeanor. He was free, unconditioned, innocent, open. That’s the unconditioned eye, the unconditioned self. That is the original face, the face you had before your parents were born.