One year and then another.
Appearances gradually change.
Bone marrow shrivels.
Eyebrows thin away.
This time-limited body is like a mound of slurry.
In the Triple World, earth, air, fire and water mingle and change.
This is all our emotions allow us to notice
And their sight obstructs our view of Heaven.
One month and then another.
The light and dark pass like melting snow.
No part can be kept for long.
Only the Dharma does not come or go.
The lacquer bowl suddenly breaks.
You are like the Dragon of Heaven - born to be lively and free.
A roc can't live in a crane's nest.
A little jiaoliao bird needs to stay near mosquito ponds.
One day and then another.
They never wear themselves out.
Give up your judgments about everything.
It's all insubstantial in the end.
All things under the sun come to an end and dissolve.
Spend what time you have in honest simplicity.
Just one breath of the Eternal
Admits you to the Great Chamber.
One hour and then another.
Inexorably march, step by step.
Whenever I meet you, we each smile.
But who is it who drags your corpse around?
Steadfast and unchangeable
Always mindful of this or that.
You're young and strong. Exert yourself!
Don't wait... oh please don't wait
Until you're much too old and weak.
'Empty Cloud: Autobiography of the Chinese Zen Master, Hsu Yun'
By Hsu Yun (Author), Xu Yun (Author), Richard Hunn (Editor), Charles Luk (Translator)
n the course of a long-life, spanning almost 120 years, Xu-yun (1840-1959)had become something of a living legend. By the time of his passing in 1959, Xu-yun was the most renowned Zen Buddhist in China. Hence this biography makes fascinating reading. It details the struggles - as well as the rewards, of a life dedicated to the Dharma. Philip Kapleau Roshi used to read portions of this book to his students to inspire them and provide spurs for practice.
Born around the time of the Opium Wars - Xu-yun's life spanned some of the most violent upheavals China had ever witnessed -what with being occupied by several foreign powers, the formation of the Republic, then civil war, leaving China under Communist rule. Few of China's modernisers - communist or otherwise, were sympathetic to Buddhism, leaving the fate of the Sangha uncertain. Unlike the days of yore, when official patronage and funding could be counted on, these were hard times. Hence, Xu-yun's endeavours to restore Chinese Buddhism or bring about a revival seem all that more remarkable. Similar challenges had been encountered by the eminent Ming master Han-shan, so Xu-yun came to be known as "Han-shan come-again."
This book also documents Xu-yun's pilgrimages and travels - for the most part on foot, to neighbouring Buddhist lands - India, Tibet, Burma, Thailand etc. While in Thailand, the King was so impressed by Xu-yun, he became a personal disciple of the master. On a practical note, supplementary material has been added,detailing Xu-yun's instructions on Ch'an/Zen practice, at the Jade Buddha temple, Shanghai. These were highly practical and can be put to use anywhere. Master Xu-yun's inspiring story deserves a place in every Buddhist library.