May 22nd, 2019

Xiangyan Zhixian studied at the assembly of Guishan Lingyou; Zen Master Dayuan said, “you are bright and knowledgeable. Say something about yourself before your parents were born, but don’t use words you have learned from sutras and commentaries.

Xiangyan tried and tried but could not say anything. He poured through the many books he had collected over the years but could not come up with anything. Deeply ashamed, he burned his books and said, “A painting of a rice cake does not satisfy hunger. I will be just a gruel monk, not expecting to understand buddha-dharma in this lifetime.”

A gruel monk means one who supports the assembly by cooking rice, an equivalent of our kitchen assistant. He followed this vow for years.

Xiangyan and Guishan