Forty-seventh Patriarch
Dhyana Master
Hwai Shen

Commentary

The Master was the Dharma heir of Dhyana Master Jyu Syu of Bau Fu. He was a very virtuous person. Once while the Master was the abbot at Bau Fu, a monk asked him, "What is the Buddha?"

The Master replied, "Assigning someone a job according to his capacity." Give him a job that is suited to his ability. That was the Master's reply to the monk's question concerning who the Buddha is. The meaning is that one should not look for the Buddha in profound or esoteric matters. If you understand ordinary affairs, you also understand the Buddha. You have to weigh the situation in your mind: whatever position a person is suited for, that's the position you want to give him.

The monk asked further, "After he is assigned to his job, then what?" What do you do after that?

The Master replied, "The staff at Tyan Tai " This staff is used to strike people. Basically this answer is a non sequitur, not a straightforward reply to the question. The question and answer seem to have nothing to do with each other. However, this is the style of Chan. You aren't supposed to find a clue; you have no way to exercise your discriminating consciousness.

Another question was asked, "What is the true and actual substance?" What is our true and basic substance?

The Master answered, "It's very cold today!" Look at that kind of reply.

The monk asked, "What does this mean anyway?" The Master replied, "Snow covering thousands upon thousands of mountains." Again the answer seems to be totally unrelated to the question. The message is: don't discriminate. Don't think so much.