died: c. 820
master: Baizhang (J. Hyakujo)
Chan disciples: none recorded
| oshobob The Living Workshop
Master, Shen Tsan, gained his
enlightenment through Pai Chang. He then
returned to the monastery in which he had
been ordained by his 'first teacher', the monk
who had brought him up from childhood and
who, at that time, was a very old man....
One day Shen Tsan was helping his old
teacher to bathe. While washing the old man's
back, he said to him, "This is such a fine
temple, but the Buddha in it is not at all holy!"
His old teacher then turned round and looked
at him, whereupon Shen Tsan commented,
"Though the Buddha is not holy, he can still
radiate the light."
Again, one day, while the old man was
reading a sutra near a paper-covered window,
a bee tried desperately, with all its strength, to
fly out of the room through the paper but was
unable to get through.
Shen Tsan, seeing this. said, "The world is so
vast and wide that you may easily set yourself
free in it. Why, then, do you foolishly bore into
the old, rotten paper?"
And he sang a gatha:
How foolish is to try to get out
By thrusting against the window!
Alas! How can you
Raise your head above the slough
By putting your nose against the old,
For a hundred years?"
Hearing this remark, the old man laid down
his book and said to Shen Tsan, "For quite a
few times now, you have made unusual
remarks. From whom did you gain your
knowledge while you were away from home?"
Shen Tsan replied, "I have reached the state
of peaceful rest through the grace of Master
Pai Chang. Now I have come back home to
pay my debt of gratitude to you."
The old teacher then prepared a great festival
in his young disciple's honor, summoned the
monks in the monastery to the assembly hall,
and besought Shen Tsan to preach the
dharma to all. Whereupon Shen Tsan
ascended to the high seat, and, following the
tradition of Pai Chang, preached as follows:
Free from the bondage of matter and
Not binding by words and letters
The Essence is nakedly exposed in its
Never defiled is the Mind-nature;
It exists in perfection from the very
By merely casting away your delusions
The Suchness of Buddhahood is
Listening to these words, seeing his own
disciple illumined, feeling for the first time who
he had become, the old man touched the feet
of his own disciple. And when he was bowing
down and touching the feet of his own
disciple, he became enlightened, the insight
Yes, the door is always open. Zen does not
preach anything new to you; it simply makes
you aware that the door is open. And you
have entered by the same door! This is simply
foolish to go on seeking how to get out of it...
Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol. 3, ch. 1