Xiangyan’s Great Enlightenment

Zen master Xiangyan was bright in nature. Being at the assembly of Guishan, he was well learned and had extensive memory.

Guishan one day said to Xiangyan, “Everything you say is what you’ve memorised from commentaries. Now I am going to ask you a question. When you were an infant—before you could even distinguish east from west – at that time, how was it?”

Xiangyan spoke and presented his understanding, explaining the principle, but could not get approval.

He went through the texts he had collected and studied, but he could not find an answer that would satisfy the master.

Deeply grieved and in tears, he burned all his books and commentaries. Then he said to himself, “I will never understand Zen in this lifetime. I will become a hermit monastic and enter a mountain and practise.”

Thus, he entered Mount Wudang and built a hut near the grave site of National Teacher Nanyang.

One day while he was sweeping the path, a pebble struck a stalk of bamboo and made a cracking sound.

At that moment he suddenly had a great enlightenment experience.

Student: “How did Xiangyan get enlightened by the cracking sound of a pebble and a stalk of bamboo?”

Master: “Ask a pebble and a stalk of bamboo in person. I am not as good as them.”

Commentary:
Drop all your crafty cleverness. Put it all down. With a mind free of thought rocks and bamboo preach the dharma all day.

What was the sound of your mother’s voice before she was born?

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