The Way Seeking Light

Dharma Discourse by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei
True Dharma Eye, Case 122
Fayan's Fire God

Featured in Mountain Record 30.2, Winter 2011

Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei is abbot and resident teacher of the Zen Center of New York City: Fire Lotus Temple and Head of the Order for the Mountains and Rivers Order.


Main Case

Baoen was once studying in the community of Fayan. One day Fayan said, "How long have you been with us?"

Baoen said, "I've been in your community for three years."

Fayan said, "You are a junior person in the monastery. How come you never ask questions?"

Baoen said, "I don't want to mislead you. I must confess. When I was with Master Yuezhou, I attained the peaceful bliss."

Fayan said, "By what words did you enter that place?"

Baoen replied, "When I asked Master Yuezhou 'What is the self of the practitioner?' he said, 'The fire god seeks fire.'"

Fayan said, "Good words, but I'm afraid you don't understand them."

Baoen said, "The fire god belongs to fire. Fire seeking fire is just like the self seeking self."

Fayan said, "Indeed, you didn't understand. If the Buddhadharma were like that, it wouldn't have come down to this day."

Baoen was greatly upset and stood up and left. But on his way he thought," Fayan is the teacher of five hundred monastics. He didn't approve me, but what he said should be correct." He turned back and apologized.

Fayan said, "Why don't you ask me?"

Baoen then said, "What is the self of the practitioner?" Fayan said, "The fire god seeks fire."

At that, Baoen experienced a great awakening.

Commentary

If you have seen it clearly, you have the freedom to manifest it in the marketplace or on the road. Like a hawk in the sky or the salmon sporting the rapids, there is no hindrance. If you're still not clear, you're tossed about by circumstances, positions and expectations. It's like a rabbit in a snare: the more it struggles, the tighter the snare gets.

When a person of clarity meets another of equal clarity, there is no doubt about what is correct or incorrect, and each further illuminates the other. However, when a clear-eyed one meets a person of knowledge, regardless of rank or position, then teacher meets disciple and the great function is brought out. Tell me, what is the great function?

Capping Verse

If you're not intimate with it, when it's revealed,
           you'll think about it for the rest of your life.
That which gains entry through the gate
           is not the family treasure.