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Ch'an Conversation

Master Gwang-Qin and Venerable Master Hua (1981)

Editor’s note: on Lunar calendar Fourteenth Day of January in 1974, Venerable Master Hua came to visit Master Gwang-Qin in Cheng-tian Chan Monastery (in Taiwan). The “Venerable Elder Monk” in the conversation refers to Master Gwang-Gong. The “Great Master” refers to Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Venerable Elder Monk: What is the meaning of sitting?

Great Master: There is no meaning to it.

Venerable Elder Monk: Is having ‘no meaning’ to be like a stone?

Great Master: Then ‘having meaning’ would also be like a stone. We should give rise to a thought without abiding in it so there is no meaning, nor any gain in knowledge or attainment.

Venerable Elder Monk: We should not cherish the physical body!
Great Master: That is because the attributes of people, self, others and lifespan—any and all attributes—are illusory and false. If we perceive all attributes as being no attributes, then we perceive the Tathagatas. Thus I perceive the Tathagatas: They do not come from anywhere and they do not go anywhere. That is why they cannot be grasped.

Venerable Elder Monk: This is what the Bodhisattvas say. However, we are still made of flesh and bones.

Great Master: Non-attachment defines Bodhisattvas.

Venerable Elder Monk: Attachment defines Bodhisattvas.

Great Master: All is transformational and illusory. We act, but it is as if nothing were happening.   

Venerable Elder Monk: So who said that?

Great Master: The speaker is the one talking; the eater is the one taking food.

Venerable Elder Monk: Not having enough to eat, my mind is not content.

Great Master: Not having enough to eat comes from not eating enough. When eating, we certainly should eat our fill.

Venerable Elder Monk: Who is being greedy?

Great Master: Whoever is greedy is the greedy one. But whoever is greedy can also become a Buddha!

Venerable Elder Monk: The speaker is reasonable! 

Great Master: Were I not reasonable, the Americans would pay me no heed!

[At this point of conversation, Great Master To Lun gave some instructions to his American disciples.]

Great Master said to the disciples: If you have questions, you can ask the Venerable Elder Monk!

The disciples acknowledged with a nod of their heads and said: We can’t think of any question to ask!

Venerable Elder Monk said to the American disciples: You don’t need to ask with your mouth. Just use your eyes to look and you will know.

Great Master: Even if you don’t use your eyes, you can still know. Prior to coming here from the U.S. , I already knew that you, Venerable Elder, are an old cultivator.

Venerable Elder Monk: No, no, I often feel this false shell still is not at ease.

Great Master: Pay no attention to ease or lack of ease!

Venerable Elder Monk: There is still pain even you don’t pay attention to it.

Great Master: We ‘should give rise to a thought without abiding in it!’ But you should also take care of your physical body.

Venerable Elder Monk: I can’t even if I wanted to!

Great Master: You have to even if you can’t!

Venerable Elder Monk: Without abiding in it!

Great Master: Taking care of yourself can also be done while abiding nowhere.