Sunday, February 14, 2010

Marvelous Activity

A while back I posted about Layman P'ang. He was a simple family man who lived in China almost 1200 years ago. One day he loaded all of his family goods into a boat and sank them in a river, afterwards devoting himself to Zen practice and wandering about engaging other Zen-heads in Dharma combat.

One of his most famous stories is also one of my favorites. It is an encounter with Zen Master Shih-tou:

One day Shih-tou said to Layman P'ang, "Since seeing me what have your daily activities been?" "When you asked about my daily activities, I can't open my mouth, " the Layman replied. "Just because I know you are thus I now ask you, " said Shih-tou.

Whereupon the Layman offered this verse:

My daily activites are not unusual,
I'm just naturally in harmony with them.
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing,
In every place there's no hindrance, no conflict.
Who assigns the ranks of vermillion and purple?
The hills' and mountains' last speck of dust is extinguished.
My supernatural power and marvelous activity,
Drawing water and carrying firewood.
Shih-tou gave his assent. Then he asked, "Will you put on the black robes or will you continue wearing white?"
"I want to do what I like." replied the Layman. He he did not shave his head or dye his clothing.
Hands palm to palm,
story courtesy of 'A Man of Zen: The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang'...Weatherhill Press.

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