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Lazy Eye
14 Sep 11, 15:33
Hi all,

The following story has long fascinated me, but I find its meaning elusive. Does anyone here feel that they understand it?


Chan Master Hui-tsang of Shih-kung used to be a hunter. He disliked monks. One day, as he was chasing a herd of deer, he happened to pass in front of the Ancestor's hermitage. The Ancestor greeted him. Hui-tsang asked, "Has the Venerable seen a herd of deer passing nearby?"

The Ancestor asked him, "Who are you?"
Hui-tsang replied: "I am a hunter."
The Ancestor asked, "Do you know how to shoot?"
Hui-tsang said, "Yes, I know."
The Ancestor asked, "How many deer can you shoot with a single arrow?"
Hui-tsang said, "With a single arrow I can shoot only one deer."
The Ancestor said, "You don't know how to shoot."
Then Hui-tsang asked, "Does the Venerable know how to shoot?"
The Ancestor said, "Yes, I know."
Hui-tsang asked, "How many can the Venerable shoot with a single arrow?"
The Ancestor said, "With a single arrow I can shoot the whole herd."
Hui-tsang replied: "They also have life; why shoot the whole herd?"
The Ancestor said, "If you know that, why don't you shoot yourself?"
Hui-tsang replied, "If you ask me to shoot myself, I cannot do that."

Then the Ancestor said, "Ah, this man. All his ignorance and defilements accumulated over vast kalpas have today suddenly come to an end." At that point Hui-tsang destroyed his bow and arrows. He cut off his hair with a knife, and became a monk with the Ancestor.

The Ancestor here is Ma Tsu (709-788).

What I get is that the hunter (Hui-Tsang) realizes that he is not apart from the deer he is chasing and that by harming them, he is harming himself. But I don't think I am grasping the deeper significance of the tale.

It seems to me that the "herd" here at some point is no longer a literal herd, but a metaphor for the afflictions, and that the gist has something to do with the turn away from external objects to one's own mind. Is this correct?

In brief, what is the Venerable's arrow?

Element
14 Sep 11, 21:18
hi

for me, i just read a moral teaching here, rather than a profound metaphor

for example, about Angulimala, Ajahn Buddhadasa said:


So don't be afraid of kamma, to fear that means we are ruled by our kamma. Rather, we should take an interest in emptiness. If we have created emptiness with regards to 'I' and 'mine', kamma will utterly disintegrate and there will be no way that we will have to follow its dictates.

It's due to this very point that someone like Angulimala, a murderer, could become an arahant. Don't explain wrongly as is often done, the Buddha's reply to Angulimala, "I have already stopped. It is you that have not stopped." Don't explain that 'not stopped' means that Angulimala became a saint because he stopped killing people. Anyone that explains like that is badly representing the Buddha because when the Buddha used the word 'stop' here, he was referring to the stopping of 'I' and 'mine', to the stopping of clinging and grasping, or in other words to emptiness. So it is emptiness that is the stopping and it is the only kind of stopping that could have made Angulimala an arahant. If it was just stopping killing people that would make one an arahant why are not all those people who do not kill arahants? It is because cessation, the true stopping, is the emptiness where there is no self to dwell anymore. That is true stopping. If there is still a self then you can't stop.

So we should understand that the word 'empty' is the same as the word 'stop', the single word by which the Buddha was able to enlighten Angulimala, even though the killer's hands were still red with blood and around his neck hung the 999 finger bones of his victims. For kamma to end by itself, to reach the stopping, we must rely on this single term: empty of 'I' and 'mine', not grasping at or clinging to dhammas.

From: 'Heart-wood from the Bo Tree'
however, i personally do not agree with what Buddhadasa said. in the sutta, the Buddha states: "I have stopped forever doing violence to living beings"

to me, the koan turns here: "Hui-tsang replied: "They also have life; why shoot the whole herd?""

here, Hui-tsang, seems to realise if he shoots the whole herd, he will have nothing to shoot, he will lose his status & self-identity as a "hunter"

Hui-tsang realises 'interbeing'

then, of course, in the next exchange, Hui-tsang realises life is dear to all, as the Buddha said:


129. All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

130. All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

Dhammapada

anyway, that is my reading of it

regards ;D

Lazy Eye
15 Sep 11, 12:02
Thanks Nick. The parallel with Angulimala is very interesting, particularly in Ajahn Buddhadasa's reading of it.


So we should understand that the word 'empty' is the same as the word 'stop', the single word by which the Buddha was able to enlighten Angulimala, even though the killer's hands were still red with blood and around his neck hung the 999 finger bones of his victims. For kamma to end by itself, to reach the stopping, we must rely on this single term: empty of 'I' and 'mine', not grasping at or clinging to dhammas.

I can see how this could explicate the Venerable's statement:


With an arrow I can shoot the whole herd

as well as the subsequent:


The Ancestor said: "If you know that, why don't you shoot yourself?"
Hui-tsang replied, "If you ask me to shoot myself, I cannot do that."

I feel as though the dialogue takes place on two levels: the ordinary and the awakened. That is, the hunter is speaking as an ordinary puthujjana, asking questions literally, whereas the master is replying in koans.

About it being a moral teaching, I guess my question has to do with how the story concludes. If it were simply a lesson in proper morality, I'd expect the hunter to simply decide to behave more virtuously - perhaps exchange hunting for another occupation that doesn't involve killing.

But he does more than that; he shaves his head and becomes a monastic. What causes him to do this? Doesn't it suggest he has experienced kensho as a result of his dialogue with the Ancestor?

Aloka
15 Sep 11, 12:28
I'm not sure of the meaning of 'Kensho' - is it awakening ?

If someone decides to try and give up worldly concerns and become a monastic it doesn't necessarily indicate a higher realisation of any kind.

Element
15 Sep 11, 23:02
But he does more than that; he shaves his head and becomes a monastic. What causes him to do this? Doesn't it suggest he has experienced kensho as a result of his dialogue with the Ancestor?
Possibly

Possibly the last sentence is about anatta-sunyata ;D


The Ancestor said, "If you know that, why don't you shoot yourself?"
Hui-tsang replied, "If you ask me to shoot myself, I cannot do that."

Lazy Eye
16 Sep 11, 15:25
I'm not sure of the meaning of 'Kensho' - is it awakening ?

It's often used to refer to an initial, temporary experience of awakening -- a glimpse of enlightenment, so to speak, which will be followed by successively deeper realizations (hopefully!) as the practice continues.


If someone decides to try and give up worldly concerns and become a monastic it doesn't necessarily indicate a higher realisation of any kind.

True. Still, in Zen stories...

Dan74
20 Sep 11, 03:22
Hi Folks:wave:

My first post here and likely off the mark (pun intended), but I will give it a go!

I guess with these Zen mondo, the true meaning is not in the particulars of the details being discussed but concerns the mind. And yet they are not metaphors either because the situation at hand and the mind are not two. The master just takes the moment to its deeper level of significance rather than speaking in riddles and symbols.

In this mondo, the master's first sentence is already pointing at the mind - "Who are you?" Hui-tsang clings to his identity as a hunter, but the deeper significance of what he is and does still escapes him. This is what the master explores then.

Shooting an arrow and hitting the target is skillful functioning of the Original Mind, where rather than following the comings and goings or being led around by them, the adept effortless discharges the Vows with no thought of the vows or one discharging them, harmonizing with the happenings as they arise - every thought and action like an arrow hitting the target.

But Hui-tsang pursues only one deer at a time - his mind still clings to an object. Here's where the master shows him that he doesn't understand the true meaning of shooting. He shows him what real shooting is where one arrow slays the whole herd of formations, then skillful functioning embraces the whole universe.

Hui-tsang protests that they also have life - at this stage it would be naive to suppose the master was speaking of actually killing the whole herd of deer although on one level he is shocking him into realizing the cruelty of killing. Hui-tsang was still clinging to formations - to the "external world" - "they have life!" Well, if you realize the truth of formations, let go of the falsity of self - "forget the self and be enlightened by ten thousand things.(Dogen)" So "shoot yourself" - slay the formation of self - the root delusion, rather than chasing after the secondary.

The last reply is the most profound. Hui-tsang says "If you ask me to shoot myself, I cannot do that." This one is best left alone and contemplated on one's own.

Thereafter when people asked Hui-tsang a Dharma question, he is said to have pointed the bow between their eyes.

It would be good to hear from Ven Huifeng or a classical commentary. Certainly don't take the above as authoritative in any way.

_/|\_


Chan Master Hui-tsang of Shih-kung used to be a hunter. He disliked monks. One day, as he was chasing a herd of deer, he happened to pass in front of the Ancestor's hermitage. The Ancestor greeted him. Hui-tsang asked, "Has the Venerable seen a herd of deer passing nearby?"

The Ancestor asked him, "Who are you?"
Hui-tsang replied: "I am a hunter."
The Ancestor asked, "Do you know how to shoot?"
Hui-tsang said, "Yes, I know."
The Ancestor asked, "How many deer can you shoot with a single arrow?"
Hui-tsang said, "With a single arrow I can shoot only one deer."
The Ancestor said, "You don't know how to shoot."
Then Hui-tsang asked, "Does the Venerable know how to shoot?"
The Ancestor said, "Yes, I know."
Hui-tsang asked, "How many can the Venerable shoot with a single arrow?"
The Ancestor said, "With a single arrow I can shoot the whole herd."
Hui-tsang replied: "They also have life; why shoot the whole herd?"
The Ancestor said, "If you know that, why don't you shoot yourself?"
Hui-tsang replied, "If you ask me to shoot myself, I cannot do that."

Then the Ancestor said, "Ah, this man. All his ignorance and defilements accumulated over vast kalpas have today suddenly come to an end." At that point Hui-tsang destroyed his bow and arrows. He cut off his hair with a knife, and became a monk with the Ancestor.

tjampel
20 Sep 11, 05:45
@Dan74

Wonderful!

Aloka
20 Sep 11, 05:48
Welcome to the group, Dan74 ! :wave:

Dan74
20 Sep 11, 15:10
Thanks, tjampel. It's a great story! Would be interesting to hear what real adepts have to say about it.

Thanks, Aloka! Not sure how long I am sticking around - I tend to pass through these days...

Esho
20 Sep 11, 15:21
Hi Dan, be welcome here!

Post # 7 seems to be a good approach toward the story.

:hands:

tjampel
21 Sep 11, 02:24
The reason I don't get so hung up on lineages is that I firmly believe that an adept in any of them experiences their own mind in essentially the same way. Just want a clear view---like Master Hui-tsang.

Dan74
21 Sep 11, 02:45
Except in some they will say there is no such thing as "your own mind"! :D

A caveat about these Zen mondo worth mentioning is that understanding such mondo with concepts is just harmful. In this sense the comment I gave about it is nothing but poison. The mondo have to be lived through and concept is just one more thing that separates us from this living reality. The more accurate the explanation, the worse it is, because it diminishes the Doubt, the inquiry that would compel you to clear it up for yourself.

That's why I think Ta Hui burned his master's koan collection and commentaries. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) he didn't burn all of them and so we have the Blue Cliff Record. It's a question of skillful means not because there was something wrong with those commentaries in themselves.