A single fart brings you across the river.

Su Dongpo (a famous Buddhist poet) of the Song Dynasty was assigned to an official post at Guazhuo. Across the river, on its southern shore, was Jinshan (Golden Mountain) Temple where Chan Master Foyin presided.

One day, Su Dongpo, feeling quite advanced in his practice, wrote a poem and asked his attendant to send it to Chan Master Foyin for verification.

The poem went as following:

“Bowing with my highest respect
To the deva of devas
Whose fine light illuminates the whole universe,
The eight winds cannot move me,
For I am sitting upright on the golden purple lotus blossom.”

After receiving the poem from the attendant and reading it, Chan Master Foyin picked up the brush and wrote down one word as his comment.

When the attendant came back with the poem, Su Dongpo, expecting words of praise from the Chan Master, quickly opened it to read the comment.

However, on that page, nothing was written except the word “Fart!” (“Pi” in Chinese, which means “utter nonsense”)

Upon seeing such an insult, Su Dongpo was ablaze with the fire of anger. Immediately, he boarded a boat and crossed the Yangtze River to argue with Chan Master Foyin.

Before the boat even pulled onto the shore, Chan Master Foyin was already standing there waiting for Su Dongpo. Upon seeing Foyin, Su Dongpo said, “Chan Master, we are such intimate Dharma friends! It is fine that you do not compliment my practice or my poem. But how can you insult me like this?”

Innocently, as if nothing had happened, the Chan Master asked, “How have I insulted you?”

Without saying another word, Su Dongpo simply showed the word “Fart” to Chan Master Foyin.

Laughing wholeheartedly, the Chan Master said, “Oh! Didn’t you say that the eight winds cannot move you? How come you are sent across the river with just a fart?!

Su Dongpo’s anger suddenly drained away as he understood his friend’s meaning. If he really was a man of spiritual refinement, completely unaffected by the eight winds, then how could he be so easily provoked?

With a few strokes of the pen and minimal effort, Foyin showed that Su Dongpo was in fact not as spiritually advanced as he claimed to be. Ashamed but wiser, Su Dongpo departed quietly.

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