Friday, October 3, 2008

A Taoist Perspective: Shīfu Zhàng's Mysterious Cane Points the Way

"Mayoku walked around his old Zen friend, Shifu Zhang, three times and then thumped his staff on the ground.
Shifu Zhang stood up, walked around Mayoku once, tapped his cane three times on the wall, and said "The power of the wind can topple trees and is gone by morning. My cane can cut through the wind."

Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku asked his Daoist friend, Shifu Zhang, "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?"
Shifu Zhang picked up his beautiful cane in one hand, and then quickly tapped it eight times on the floor.
Hakuin Ekaku smiled and said, "Indeed, Shifu Zhang's cane is louder than the sound of one hand, but it must be sanded and polished more."

Zen Master Baqiao told his old friend, "If you have a staff, I will give you a staff; if you have no staff, I will take your staff away."
His friend, Shifu Zhang, replied "I have a cane and you don't. Would you like to borrow yours?"
Baqiao replied, "Shifu Zhang, you will have to walk into Hell!"
Shifu Zhang raised his eyebrows and said, "Well, Baqiao, then I will need to borrow my cane for the long hot walk. Sorry, but I can't lend yours to you."

Gathering together in an orchard of blooming sweet lime trees, the students waited for their esteemed teacher, Kasyapa. Slowly walking down the dirt path, relying on his danda walking staff for balance, Kasyapa joined his students. He sat quietly for a long time, enjoying the fragrance of the lime blossoms. Finally, he raised his danda staff. Everyone stared at Kasyapa - serious, intent, focused, and silent. Only Shifu Zhang smiled, and then lifted his cane. Kasyapa pointed his danda at Shifu Zhang. Another transmission was completed. The sacred thread remained unbroken.

Zen Master Seung Sahn held up his staff in front of old Shifu Zhang, and said "Then, what are this staff, this sound and your mind? Are they the same or different? If you say "same," I will hit you thirty times. If you say "different," I will also hit you thirty times. Why?"
Shifu Zhang lifted his cane slowly and pointed it at Seung Sahn's face, and then he said "Don't know! Same or different, nobody can hit the sound of our minds."

Zen Master Shuzan held out his short staff in front of his Taoist friend, Shifu Zhang, and said "If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality and are clinging. If you do not call it a short staff, then you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?"
Shifu Zhang smiled, dropped and pointed to his cane, and said "Yesterday it was a wooden walking stick that helped without speaking. Tomorrow it may become firewood, crackling in the flames."

Zen Master Yunmen Wenyan and Shifu Zhang were walking together in the hills behind the monastery one cloudy autumn afternoon. It began to rain steadily on the two old friends. Yunmen said, "My staff has changed into a dragon and is swallowing up the heaven and earth. So, my friend, where do mountains, rainfall, rivers and the great earth come from?"
Shifu Zhang was quiet for awhile, stopped on the trail, and then held his cane in his hand with the tip pointing to the sky. He said, "Yunmen, as for the source of their coming, the tip of my cane points to the fecund depths of vast emptiness, the crook end to the endless inter-marriages of ten thousand realities, and my hand grasps the heartwood of the ordinary mind. So, my friend Yunmen, where are they all going?"

Master Tung Kwo asked Sifu Zhang, " Show me where the Tao is to be found."
Sifu Zhang replied, "There is no place my cane or my mind goes or rests where it cannot be found."

Zen Master Ummon held up his staff in front of his Zen friend, Shifu Zhang, and said "This staff leapt up to the Eighth Heaven into the hands of the lame Zhong Kui who used it to awaken the Green Dragon in the Eastern Sea."
Shifu Zhang said, "Ummon your poetry is lovely, but my cane cannot hear you."

Toju Zenchu brandished his staff before Daoist Shifu Zhang and challenged him "Speak and you get Nanten's staff. Do not speak and you still get Nanten's staff."
Shifu Zhang stood, lifted his cane in defense, and quietly said, "Hush, Nanten! Your staff appears broken. I am leaving now to take my evening walk. Goodbye."
- Michael P. Garofalo, Way of the Short Staff

"To regard the fundamental as the essence, to regard things as coarse, to regard accumulation as deficiency, and to dwell quietly alone with the spiritual and the intelligent -- herein lie the techniques of Tao of the ancients."
- Chuang-Tze

Look, it cannot be seen - it is beyond form.
Listen, it cannot be heard - it is beyond sound.
Grasp, it cannot be held - it is intangible.
These three are indefinable, they are one.

From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark:
Unbroken thread beyond description.
It returns to nothingness.
Form of the formless,
Image of the imageless,
It is called indefinable and beyond imagination.

Stand before it - there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the Tao, Move with the present.

Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.
- Lao-Tse

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