Blue Cliff Records-49

Shunryu Suzuki Transcript

This is a brief edited summary of a Suzuki lecture.

Wind Bell lecture — March 1964

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Sancho and "The Golden Scales" Escaping from the Net

Introductory Word:

Engo introducing the subject said: Seven piercings and eight holes, snatching the drums and carrying off the banner (in war-time to pierce the enemy's lines in seven or eight places and to snatch the enemy's drums and banner is metaphorically compared to the great activity of Sancho in the main subject). A hundred ramparts and a thousand entrenchments, watching the front and guarding the rear (comparisons to Seppo's way of attending to Sancho). Or sitting on the tiger's head and seizing its tail: such is not good enough to compare the great activity of skillful Zen Master (Sancho). Even though an ox-head disappears and a horse-head appears, this would not be miraculous enough (in comparison to the skill of Seppo). So ponder what you will do, if you come across a man of such surpassingly great activity.

Main Subject:

Attention! Sancho asked Seppo: "What (Why?) does a mysterious golden-scaled carp escaped from the fishing net eat?" Seppo said, "I would like to wait for your coming out of the fishing net and then answer you." Sancho said, "You, who have fifteen hundred disciples do not understand what I say." Seppo said: "this old monk is too busy in managing temple affairs to attend to you."

Appreciatory Word (by Setcho with notes by Reverend Suzuki)

"Do not say that the golden carp which has jumped out of the fishing net is staying quietly in the water. (He is) loosening the heavens, moving the earth, shaking his fins, opening out its tail." (This refers to Sancho's statement: 'You who have 1500 disciples…etc') "Spouting water to a thousand feet, a great white whale will leap through the flood. After a great thunderstorm, a cool wind came." (This refers to Seppo's statement: 'This old monk is too busy…etc.') "Oh this wonderful pure clean wind, who knows the mystery of such tremendous cleansing power!"

Interpretation of Main Subject (A direct translation of Engo's remarks in the 'Hyosho', with some notes by Reverend Suzuki).

Seppo and Sancho—with questions and answers, giving and taking, crossing words with one another—neither won nor lost. Just think what kind of wisdom they have. Sancho had received Rinzai's transmission and had traveled many places. It is no wonder that he was treated as a high monk. Look at the following questions and answers made between Seppo and him. Perhaps not many people can understand the deep meaning of this dialogue without being in the realm of radical Buddhism.

Sancho asked Seppo: "What does the mysterious golden carp escaped from a fishing net eat?" Now ponder what he meant. What is the food for the golden-scaled fish? Seppo, who was also a great master said to Sancho: "I would like to wait for your coming-out from the net and then answer you."

Funyo1 called the kind of question that Sancho asked, "a question presenting one's own understanding," (and in the Soto school they called this kind of question a "metaphorical question.") You may say that Sancho was a great golden-scaled carp escaped from the fishing net with a great incomparable wisdom and activity. However, Seppo, a skillful master, did not give Sancho full play, saying: "I will wait for your coming out of the net." Look! Those two masters are standing at the top of the ten thousand feet cliff!

However, but for Sancho's next instantaneous statement, the question and answer would not make full sense. Sancho said to Seppo: "Although you are a teacher of fifteen hundred students, you do not know how to question and answer." To this Seppo said: "I may have been mistaken to listen to you, because I am very busy in managing temple work." Look! He became very droll!

In the manner of confrontation of the two great masters' skill, there are no restrictions: sometimes grasping, sometimes granting, to the strong with the weak, to the humble with the polite. According to the circumstances, they express themselves at their own will. If you try to understand this subject with the idea of winning or losing, you will never see Sancho, even in your dreams.

"Such is the two well-trained Zen masters' way," said Engo. "At first they are tough and later droll. Do you still ask which has won or lost? The way of confrontation between other Zen masters is not always like this."

In order to make clear what a good Zen master Sancho was, Engo then said: Once Sancho was a head monk of Rinzai's monastery. When Rinzai was about to pass away, he gave his students the last sermon and said: "After my Nirvana, you should not destroy the treasury of my right Dharma eye." Sancho came up to him and said: "How dare we destroy it?" Rinzai said: "If someone asks you about my right Dharma eye, what will you say?" Sancho gave a "Katsu!" (a loud shout). Rinzai then said: "Who would expect that my right Dharma eye is going to vanish into that donkey's belly!" Hereby Sancho made obeisance to Rinzai (to show his utmost respect to Rinzai). Sancho was Rinzai's true successor, and questions and answers between them were like this.

1Funyo Zensho, 947-1024, 5th generation after Rinzai.

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Checked by Gordon Geist using the Shaw translation Suzuki used- 1999

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File name: 64-03-00: Blue Cliff Records-49 Part of some versions of this file are now in 64-03-00-B. Part separated into 64-03-00-B, 11/4/2014. Footnote 1 added from an earlier transcript, pf 1-10-2015.

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In Wind Bell, Vol. 3, issue 2, 1964