Excerpt from the book "La champs de la vacuité"

Excerpt from the book "La champs de la vacuité" (Field of vacuity) by Master Yuno Rech, a collection of commentaries during sesshin (kusen), on Master Wanshi’s teachings.

Wanshi, a Chinese master


Wanshi is a Chinese monk. He lived in the 12th century, one century before Dogen. When he was eleven years old, he became a monk. He practiced with a Master from the Soto school, named Kumu.

This master insists on the practice of zazen, stationary like a tree. We continue to concentrate on this practice : tip the pelvis forward — knees firmly pressing against the ground — backbone stretched towards the sky, not moving the body, regardless of any phenomena which might be manifest, and letting the mind be still, without pursuing anything. When we practice as such, the mind naturally recovers it’s vast and unlimited nature.

Master Wanshi awakened when hearing a sentence from the Avatamsaka sutra : «The eyes which our parents gave us can contemplate three thousand worlds.»

Three thousand or ten thousand, it’s an infinite number, unlimited. It is a question of the eyes of intuition, the mind embracing everything. They are not limited by categories of the mind like near or far, small or great. They are eyes which were given to us by our parents, which they received from their parents. These eyes are not the result of a practice. Zazen does not produce this intuition, but it enables rediscovering it by making us abandon everything which blocks our vision, our mind.

When he was twenty three, Wanshi met Master Tanka Shijun, another great master of our Soto lineage. This master asked him : «What is your true self before the kalpa of emptiness?» Meaning : What is the essence of your existence beyond your limited ego?
Wanshi is obviously not the only one to whom this question is asked. It is the essential koan of our practice.
Wanshi answered: «A frog at the bottom of a well swallows the moon. At midnight, I don’t borrow a lantern. »
And Tanka hit him while saying to him : «You say you aren’t borrowing?»
And Wanshi awakened.
Tanka asked : «Why aren’t you saying anything?»
Wanshi answered : «Today I lost money and was punished. »
So Tanka concluded : «I don’t have time to beat you.» Meaning, “I no longer need to beat you!
After that, Wanshi received the shiho from Master Tanka. He settled at the Mont Tendo Monastery, Tendo San, where one century later Master Dogen met Master Nyojo.

The frog at the bottom of the well is you and me, here and now. How can it swallow the moon?  Logically, this is impossible but if the mind which creates separation is abandoned, the one which sees itself as small whereas the moon is great, which sees itself as here and the moon over there, which thinks that Buddha nature is anything other than oneself, if this mind is abandoned, then there is no need to swallow the moon, to want to get it because it comes to us!

This must be realized by oneself. Even if we borrow someone else’s lantern, in the end, each one of us must be able to clarify one’s own life, oneself,  like Tokusan when Ryutan turned off the lantern which he had just placed before him.

Although the essence of Zen is totally contained in our practice of zazen,  the example and teaching of former masters help us to reveal the true sense of our practice. And even if we borrow their lanterns for a little while, if we come back to the experience which they have transmitted to us, well then we no longer need to borrow anything. And even if we lose money, it doesn’t mean we are poor.


Tags: Roland Yuno Rech

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