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Chan Tales

Bodhidharma presented an imprint of a beautiful lotus flower in brown sugar to a disciple. The disciple admired the imprint but would not eat it. The master then took the imprint, broke it into pieces, gave it back to the disciple and asked him to eat it. The disciple ate the pieces and enjoyed it. The master explained: "Your studies are like this imprint of lotus flower. You can hold it and admire it, but you cannot enjoy it until you break it and put it in your mouth."

Fa-yen,a Chinese Chan teacher, overheard four monks arguing about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said: "There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?" One of the monks replied: "From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind." "Your head must feel very heavy," observed Fa-yen, "if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind."

Boddhidarma painted by Choi Chor-Foo

A story is told of Hui-neng's famous disciple, Huai-rang (677-744), in the record of the latter's sayings: "Ma-zu lived in the Quan-fa Monastery on the Southern Peak. There he occupied a solitary hut in which all alone he practiced meditation (chan) paving no attention to those who came to visit him. . . One day (Huai-rang) kept grinding a brick in front of the hut, but Ma-zu still paid no attention. This having continued for a long time, (Ma-zu) finally asked: 'What are you doing?' The Teacher (Huai-rang) replied that he was grinding to make a mirror. 'How can a mirror be made by grinding bricks? asked Ma-zu. Replied the Teacher: 'If a mirror cannot be made by grinding bricks, how can a Buddha be made by practicing meditation?" Fung History p. 391

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