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Lions Roar : September 2007
69 taken place. I fleshed out the two men’s ragged dress, their recent meal—“For sure, it was not hot dogs on a bun.” I wanted to plant a deep impression in my faux nephew’s mind so he would never forget these crazy, wild ancestors. I made faces, with lips turned out, eyes raised to the ceiling; I howled, groaned, drooled, clawed at Yantou. I demanded a response to rising and vanishing. We both went to bed tired and giddy that night to wake at 4:30 AM and drive the mile and a half to the zendo. Later that morning I unfolded on my bedroom floor a glossy map of the whole Zen lineage from 532 CE to 1260 CE and knelt over it, running my finger from Matsu to Pai-Chang to Kuei- shan. These were all characters in the Book of Serenity. I relished the link between teacher and student and how the student of the next generation became the teacher in the next. Below all the dates and Chinese names was a drawing of an immense fork- tongued dragon sprouting out of the clouds. He was a feral force in the orderly map of connections. The original Book of Serenity was lost after it was first com- piled by Wansong in northern China, but it was reconstructed by Wansong at the urging of one of his disciples, Yelu Chucai. He was one of a group of Chinese statesmen desperate to save their provinces from destruction by the ravaging army of Genghis Khan, and they wanted to study the text as a way to illuminate their minds and come up with a fresh solution. Through their work they eventually softened the harshness of the Mongol ruler. Studying these cases brings one more fully and deeply into the structures that underlie conventional life. The cases were not created to help people disap- pear into a mist high on a mountain. The terrible truth, which is rarely mentioned, is that meditation doesn’t directly lead us to some vaporous, glazed- eyed peace. It drops us right into the personal meat of human suffering. No distant, abstract idea of dis- tress; instead we get to taste the bitter pain between our own twin eyes. With practice we settle right down into the barbed-wire nest, and this changes us. Working with koans creates a bigger heart, a ten- der, closer existence, a deeper seeing. NEAR THE END of November, I turned to page one hundred and eight, case number twenty-five. “Rhi- noceros Fan” was the title. My mind froze. That’s my usual tactic: when anything new comes along, I brake, clutch, and stop dead. What do I know about a rhinoc- eros? Aren’t they African? I later found out that China did have rhinos, and that their horns were carved into fans. What stumped me more was the juxtaposition of these two words: “rhinoceros,” that huge, forceful animal, probably as close to a dinosaur as we are going to find now on earth, placed beside the word “fan,” something light, used to create a breeze, a stirring of wind to refresh court ladies or Southern belles. I moved on from the title to the actual case: One day Yanguan called to his attendant, “Bring me the rhinoc- eros fan.” The attendant said, “The fan is broken.” Yanguan said, “If the fan is broken, then bring me back the rhinoceros!” The attendant had no reply. Zifu drew a circle and wrote the word “rhino” inside it. Yanguan was an illustrious disciple of Matsu. After his teach- er’s death, he had wandered until he became the abbot of Fayao Temple. This was a monastery situation. The attendant was not paid staff but was Yanguan’s student. As an attendant, the stu- dent had the great opportunity of extra time with his teacher. In this particular story the student is anonymous. All the better; he could be any of us—John or Sue or Sally, you or me. I was not sure who Zifu was who appears at the end. I would look him up later. But for now I’d stay with the teacher-and- student interaction. SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 69 SEPT 66-71.indd 69 SEPT 66-71.indd 69 6/25/07 5:05:51 PM 6/25/07 5:05:51 PM