I wrote to Master Ruijing shortly before I met him:
"When I was young I aroused the aspiration for enlightenment and visited various monasteries in my country. I had some understanding of the principle of cause and effect; however I was not able to clarify the real source of buddha, dharma, and sangha. I was only seeing the outer forms, the marks and names. Later I entered the chamber of Eisai, Zen master Senko, and for the first time heard the teaching of the Linji School.
"Now I have accompanied Monk Myozen to the flourishing kingdom of Song China. After a voyage of many miles, during which I entrusted my phantom body to the billowing waves, I have finally arrived and have entered your dharma assembly. This is the fortunate result of my wholesome roots from the past.
"Great Compassionate Teacher, even though I am only a humble person form a remote country, I am asking permission to be a room-entering student, able to come to ask questions freely and informally. Impermanent and swift, birth-and-death is the issue of utmost urgency.
"Time does not wait for us. Once a moment is gone it will never come back again, and we're bound to be full of regret. ...grant me permission to ask you about the way, about the dharma."
Rujing wrote back, "Yes, you can come informally to ask questions any time, day or night, from now on. Do not worry about formality; we can be like father and son." And he signed it, "Old man at Mt. Taibo."
On the second day of the seventh month...1225 I entered the abbot's room and asked, "Nowadays in many places they talk about transmission outside the teaching. They call this 'the essence of Bodhidharma's coming from India.' How do you understand this?"
Ruijing said, "The great road of buddha ancestors is not concerned with inside or outside. The reason they call it transmission outside the teaching is this: although Kashyapa Matanga and others had transmitted the teaching to China previously, in coming here from India Bodhidharma brought the teaching to life and showed the craft of the way. This is why they call it transmission outside the teaching.
"But there aren't two buddha-dharmas. Before Bodhidharma arrived in China there were practices, but no master to enliven them. After Bodhdharma came to China it was as if an aimless people acquired a strong king who brought the land, people, and property of the kingdom into order."
I asked, "Teachers in the past and present talk about inherent knowledge; they liken it to a fish drinking water and immediately knowing whether it's warm or cold. Awakening is this kind of knowledge, they say, and this is itself enlightenment. I don't understand this. If inherent knowledge is correct awakening, then all sentient beings will automatically become completely enlightened tathagatas, because all sentient beings already do have this kind of knowledge.
"Some people say this is how it is, that all sentient beings really are beginningless original tathagatas. Others say that sentient beings are not necessarily tathagatas. They say that only those sentient being who become aware of their inherent wisdom are tathagatas, and those who are not aware of it are not. Are any of these theories correct buddha-dharma or not?"
Rujing said, "Those who say that sentient beings are already buddhas are really professing a belief in spontaneous enlightenment. This view is not at all in accord with the way. To equate 'I' with buddha is to mistake unattainment for attainment and unenlightenment with enlightenment."
I asked, "When we students practice the way, how should we cultivate the mind in the midst of ordinary activity, while walking, sitting, standing, and lying down?"
Rujing said, "When Bodhidharma came from India, the body and mind of buddha-dharma truly entered China. Here are some things to pay attention to when you first undertake dharma study: Don't spend a long time sick in bed; don't travel far away; don't read or chant too much; don't argue too much; don't overwork; don't eat leeks and onions; don't eat meat; don't drink too much milk or honey; .... don't pay attention to matters of fame and fortune....instead look at mountains and streams.
"Illuminate the mind with ancient teachings and read sutras that contain complete meanings. When the body and mind are confused, chant the beginning of the text called 'the bodhisattva precepts'."
I asked, "The nature of all things is either good, bad, or neutral. Which of these is the buddha-dharma?"
Rujing said, "The buddha-dharma goes beyond these three."
I asked, "The wide road of the buddhas and ancestors cannot be confined to a small space. How can we limit it to something as small as 'the Zen School'?"
Rujing said, "To call the wide road of the buddhas and ancestors 'the Zen School' is thoughtless talk. 'The Zen School' is a false name used by bald-headed idiots, and all sages from ancient times are aware of this.
Rujing said, "Studying Zen is dropping off body and mind. Without depending on the burning of incense, bowing, chanting Buddha's names, repentance, or sutra reading, devote yourself to just sitting.
I asked, "What is dropping of body and mind?"
Rujing said, "Dropping off body and mind is zazen. When you just sit, you are free from the five sense desires and the five hindrances."
I asked, "Is this freedom from the five sense desires and the five hindranaces the same as what the sutra schools are talking about? Does it mean we are to be practitioners of both the Mahayana and Hinayana?"
Rujing said, "Descendents of ancestors should not exclude the teachings of either vehicle. If students ignore the Tathagata's sacred teachings, how can they become the descendents of buddha ancestors?"