(Pai Cheng, Pai-chang Huai-hai, Bai-zhang Hui-hai, Po-chang
Haykujo Ekia in Jap.)
( 720 – 814 )
Pai Chang was the Zen Master famous for establishing the
Zen monastic rule. He was always very insistent on working every day. When
he was old he persisted in this, and the monks felt sorry for him so they
hid his tools. He said, “I have no virtue. Why should others work for me?”
And he refused to eat. He said, “A day of no work is a day of no eating.”
This saying became very famous in Zen circles, and to this day the Zen
schools are noted for their practice of work.
Once Yun Yen asked Pai Chang, “Every day there’s hard
work to do. Who do you do it for?” Pai Chang said, “There is someone who
requires it.” Yun Yen said, “Why not have him do it himself?” Pai Chang
said, “He has no tools.”
Zen Master Ji Bong
The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai on Sudden Illumination
John Blofeld, trans.
Rider and Co. 1962
(see previous entrymore recent version)
Sayings and Doings of Pai-Chang:
Ch’an Master of Great Wisdom
Shih Huai-Hai. Cleary, Thomas, trans.
Los Angeles: Zen Center Publications, 1978.
information and order from:
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Review of above by Michael Harings:
The Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist tradition can seem inscrutable
to the Western mind. Pai-chang was a great Ch’an master in eighth-century
China who channeled much energy into the culture surrounding Buddhism in
his time. Reading through his sayings and speeches is a difficult though
ultimately rewarding exercise. Though one might like to understand this
Adept from an analytical or philosophical disposition, his teaching remains
mind-transcending. For instance:
- One day as the master [Pai-chang] was walking along with
Ma-tsu [his Teacher], they saw a flock of wild ducks fly by.
The ancestor raid, “What is that?”
The master said, “Wild ducks.”
Ma-tsu said, “Where have they gone?”
The master said, “Flown away.”
Ma-tsu then turned around and grabbed the master’s nose;
feeling pain, the master let out a cry.
The ancestor said, “Still you say, ‘Flown away’?”
At these words the master had insight.
Through stories like this one can begin to appreciate the
sudden awakening through dramatic and startling means that is at the heart
of Pai-chang’s teaching and the Ch’an tradition. In addition to a brief
collection of sayings, which are similar to the confrontive koan above,
the largest portion of the book is devoted to the “Extensive Record”. This
record is a compilation of Pai-chang’s talks, including questions and responses.
It is the written “Record” of this Buddhist master’s ego-interfering acts.
In fact, what this tradition of Ch’an is pointing to in
a rather enigmatic way is the incomparable Realization of the Buddha. Such
Realization is beyond all language and description, and thus any attempt
to describe it is futile. Another Buddhist Master, Seng-chao, spoke of
this understanding as follows: “The way of enlightenment cannot be measured
or calculated . . . Speaking of it is like setting up a target mound inviting
an arrow.” However, Pai-chang, like his mentors, gestures roward that Realization
by explaining in a negative fashion everything that falls short of Enlightenment.
This rhetoric can prove repetitious at times, but if one is receptive it
can lead one to an intuitive taste of the ineffable. A typical example:
- If one says there is an enlightened nature, this is called
slander by attachment, but to say there is no enlightened nature is called
slander by falsehood. As it is said, to say that enlightened nature exists
is slander by presumption, to say that it does not exist is slander by
repudiation; to say that enlightened nature both exists and does not exist
is slander by contradiction, and to say that enlightened nature is neither
existent nor nonexistent is slander by meaningless argument.
This slap in the face of reason is given to awaken insight,
to provoke the feeling of what exists beyond the ordinary presumptions
individuals have about life and reality. Pai-chang’s life and teaching
work is worthy of persistent investigation. He powerfully affected the
face of Chinese Buddhism in his time and through succeeding generations.
This celebrated Master was able to turn the esoreric instructions of high
Indian and Chinese Dharma into real practice for monastics, and to inculcate
that wisdom itself into the wider culture.