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The Story Of The Venerable Master Hsu Yun’S Enlightenment
 
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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over

Volume Two: THE STORY OF THE VENERABLE MASTER HSU YUN’S ENLIGHTENMENT

When the ancients applied their effort they would renounce death and forget about life. They weren’t afraid of toil. Every time they had a session, they weren’t willing to allow even a single second go by in vain, not to speak of letting a whole hour or two-hour sit go by in vain. They wouldn’t allow even a second to be wasted. When in the Way place they would only concentrate their minds, work hard, and hope that by using their effort in the right way they could one day recognize their original face and obliterate the wheel of birth and death.

The life of the Venerable Master Hsu Yun is a popular topic for discussion these days. Today I’ll talk a little bit about the incidents surrounding the enlightenment of the Venerable Master.

When the Venerable Hsu Yun was residing in a thatched hut on Chung Nan Mountain, he heard that the cultivators at Kao Min Monastery were going to hold ten consecutive Ch’an Sessions. They were to begin on July 19 th. So he concentrated his mind and left for Kao Min Monastery for the sake of ending birth and death. While he was descending Chou Hua Mountain, it began to rain, and it rained so hard that the roads were all submerged in water. He remembered that along the road there was a bridge but he didn’t know that it had been wiped out by the torrential rain, and as he walked along that particular road, because the bridge had been wiped out, he slipped and fell into the river. For a day and a night—24 hours—he was tossed by the waves and bobbed up and down in the current. Now, think about this, everyone. Being in the water for a day and a night should certainly have drowned him; there’s no way that he should have made it out alive. He had made the resolve to renounce death and forget about life, and was on his way to participate in a ten-week Ch’an Session when he almost drowned. You should all ponder this: wasn’t that really a case of taking a loss?

It so happened that there was a fisherman working along the river at that time who chanced upon the Venerable Hsu Yun, caught him in his net and pulled him out of the river. At first the fisherman thought that he’d caught a huge fish, but as soon as he pulled him out and took a closer look he realized that this was, in fact, a monk! The fisherman observed that the monk had taken in a lot of water, so he lifted him onto a large rock and proceeded to empty the water out of his lungs. Now it’s reasonable to suppose that after being submerged in water for 24 hours like that, one could not possibly have survived. But the Venerable Hsu Yun came back to life. The fisherman next went to a local temple and told a monk there, “I caught a monk in my net while fishing,” and the monk from the temple returned with the fisherman to the scene of the accident to take a look. When he saw the Venerable Master he exclaimed, “Oh, this is the Venerable Te Ch’ing!” So he took Venerable Hsu Yun back to his temple to rest there for a few days.

If the Venerable Master had been a person with no mind for the Way, he would have thought, “Oh, I was on my way to the session and just about drowned in the river, so I’m not going to that session now. I’m going to retreat. I’m going back to the mountain and stay there in my thatched hut.” But he wasn’t like that. He maintained his resolve to go on and participate in the session.

So he went off to Kao Min Monastery after a few days and registered as a participant. Because he had been in the water for a day and a night he was seriously ill. In what way was he ill? His nine orifices constantly flowed with blood—his nose, his eyes, his ears, his mouth all constantly bled. And even his anus and urinary tracts flowed with blood and essence. But even though he was so sick, he still didn’t retreat and say, “I’m resigning from this session!” He went to Kao Min Monastery, determined to do the session.

Now no one at Kao Min Monastery was aware of the Venerable Master’s condition, or that he had almost been drowned in the river. Nor did the Master bother to tell anyone. He was prepared to go into the Ch’an Hall to strike up the session. A preparatory session was held on July 15, and the actual session itself was to begin on October 15. Since the Abbot of Kao Min Monastery himself wanted to participate in the session, he requested that the Venerable Hsu Yun act as Abbot in his place so that he would be able to attend the session without having to be distracted by temple affairs. But Hsu Yun wouldn’t agree to this. And so, according to the tradition of the Ch’an Hall, the Abbot had him beaten with an incense board and scolded him, saying things like, “You haven’t brought forth the resolve of a Bodhisattva!” and gave him a big harangue.

By that time, the Venerable Hsu Yun was like a living dead person, to the extent that even when people beat him he didn’t feel that it was painful. When people scolded him, he didn’t even hear it. He endured insult in that way. He was able to endure it all. Shortly after that, the Abbot of the local temple where Hsu Yun had stayed after his accident showed up at Kao Min Monastery, and he explained to everyone there, “The Venerable High Monk, Te Ch’ing, descended Chou Hua Mountain and on his way to this session he fell into the river and remained for a day and a night—24 hours—and then he was fished out and revived—he came back to life.” On hearing this bit of news, everyone knew that the Venerable Hsu Yun was one who had truly forsaken death and forgotten about life, in order to participate in this session. Then everyone got together and discussed it among themselves.

It was the custom that those who participated in a session took turns taking the incense board and going on meditation patrol. While everyone else was sitting, the one on meditation patrol would carry the incense board around the hall to see who was sleeping, and whoever was sleeping would get hit with the incense board. But because the Venerable Hsu Yun had forsaken death and forgotten about life in order to attend the session, everyone felt sympathetic toward his resolve and they all agreed among themselves and said to him, “You nearly drowned and you’re really sick, so you needn’t take a turn on the meditation patrol.” Thus, he was relieved of his turn on the meditation patrol. Not having to do that, he was able to single-mindedly work hard. He concentrated with a single focus, day and night, without ever interrupting his effort. But his illness still raged. His nine orifices kept on bleeding and his essence flowed, even from his urinary tract. But in spite of that he didn’t rest; he still worked hard just as always.

One evening, during the session, it came time for tea. Because Hsu Yun was wrapped up in investigating his hua t’ou (meditation topic), his eyes were closed. As he held out his cup—maybe the tea server was sleepy—the tea server accidentally poured hot tea all over Hsu Yun’s hand and scalded it, causing him to release the cup and let it drop to the floor. T