Zen Meditation 17

P'ang Yun (d. 808), a lay disciple of Ma-tsu, resolved to follow the Path. He threw his wealth into the river and became a basket weaver. While plying his trade one day, he met a monk begging for alms. Giving the monk some money, P'ang asked him, "What is the meaning of giving alms?" The monk said, "I don't know. What is the meaning of giving alms?" And P'ang replied, "Very few people have heard about it." The monk said, "I don't understand." P'ang then asked, ',Who is it that doesn't understand?" This incident became a koan that gave birth to a whole series of hua-t'ous of the "who" type. Some variations on it are: "Who is reciting Buddha's name?" "Who is investigating Ch'an?" "Who is dragging this corpse?" and so on.

Zazen and Enlightenment

The records of the Ch'an sect, including the Transmission of the Lamp and the koan collections, do not refer to zazen practice very often. It was commonly understood that by the time practitioners began to "investigate Ch'an," they already had a good foundation in zazen. Beginners without much zazen experience may get some use out of the constant (silent) repetition of a koan or hua-t'ou, but this will only be like reciting a mantra. Without the ability to bring the mind to a deep quiescent state, it is virtually impossible to experience Self-nature through work on a koan. Thus Ta-hui Tsung-kao (l089-ll63), one of the greatest advocates of koan practice, consistently maintained that zazen was necessary to settle the wandering mind.