KOAN: Chih-huang, Tai-yung, Samadhi

In the eleventh year of Kai-yuan (723 C.E.) there was a Zen master in T’an- chou known as Chih-huang, who once studied under Jen, the great master. Later, he returned to Lushan monastery at Chang-sha, where he was devoted to the practice of meditation, and frequently entered into a Samadhi. His reputation reached far and wide.

At the time there was another Zen master whose name was Tai-yung. He went to Ts’ao-ch’i and studied under the great master for thirty years. The master used to call him: "You are equipped for missionary work." Yung at last bade farewell to his master and returned north. On the way, passing by Huang’s retreat, Yung paid a visit to him and respectfully inquired: "I am told that your reverence frequently enters into a Samadhi. At the time of such entrances, is it supposed that your consciousness still continues, or that you are in a state of unconsciousness? If your consciousness still continues, all sentient beings are endowed with the consciousness and can enter into a Samadhi like yourself. If, on the other hand, you are in a state of unconsciousness, plants and rocks can enter into a Samadhi."

Huang replied: "When I enter into a Samadhi, I am not conscious of either condition."

Yung said: "If you are not conscious of either condition, this is abiding in eternal Samadhi, and there can neither be entering into a Samadhi nor rising out of it."

Huang made no reply. He asked: "you say you come from Neng, the great master. What instruction did you have under him?"

Yung answered: "According to his instruction, no-tranquillization, no- disturbance, no-sitting, no-meditation --– this is the Tathagata’s Dhyana. The five Skandhas are not realities; the six objects of sense are by nature empty. It is neither quiet nor illuminating; it is neither real nor empty; it does not abide in the middle way; it is not doing, it is no-effect-producing, and yet it functions with the utmost freedom: the Buddha-nature is all-inclusive."

This said, Huang at once realized the meaning of it and sighed: "These thirty years I have sat to no purpose!"

SOURCE: PIEH-CHUAN, "Biography of the Great Master of Ts'ao-Ch'i," via D.T. Suzuki. In Chinese liturature Pieh-chuan was an informal, "unofficial biography," distinct from a pen-chuan, a formal biography.

ZEN BUDDHISM: Selected Writings of D.T. Suzuki Edited by William Barrett Anchor Books, 1956