In the congregation on Vulture Peak, only Kâshyapa the Great One verified and transmitted the unsurpassed bodhi of the treasury of the eye of the true dharma of the Buddha Shâkyamuni. In successor after successor through twenty-eight generations of correct verification, it reached the Venerable Bodhidharma. The Venerable, conducting the ancestral rites in the land of Cînasthâna [i.e., China], bequeathed the unsurpassed bodhi of the treasury of the eye of the true dharma to the Great Ancestor, the Great Master Zhengzong Pujue [i.e., Huike] and made him the Second Ancestor.
The Twenty-eighth ancestor, being the first to conduct the ancestral rites in the land of Cînasthâna, is called the First Ancestor; the Twenty-ninth Ancestor is called the Second Ancestor. This is the custom in eastern lands. The First Ancestor, under [his master,] the Venerable Prajñâtâra, directly verified and transmitted the instructions of the buddha and the bones of the way; he verified the root source with the root source; he made it the root for the branches and leaves.<1>
Although the sages all devise study that severs the root source of twining vines, they do not study that “severing” means to cut the twining vines with the twining vines; they do not know that twining vines are entwined by twining vines. How much less, then, could they know that twining vines are succeeded by twining vines. Few understand that succession to the dharma is twining vines. No one has heard this. No one has ever uttered it. How could there be many who have verified it?
My former master, the Old Buddha, said, “The bottle gourd vine entwines the bottle gourd.”<2>
This presentation to the assembly is something never seen or heard in any quarter past or present. My former master alone first expressed it. The bottle gourd vine entwining the bottle gourd vine is the buddhas and ancestors investigating the buddhas and ancestors, the buddhas and ancestors verifying and according with the buddhas and ancestors. It is, for example, “to transmit the mind by the mind.”
The Twenty-eighth Ancestor addressed his followers, saying, “The time is coming. Why don’t you say what you’ve attained?”
At that time, the follower Daofusaid, “My present view is, without being attached to the written word or being detached from the written word, one still engages in the function of the way.”
The Ancestor said, “You’ve got my skin.”
The nun Zongchisaid, “My present understanding is, it’s like Ânanda seeing the land of the Buddha Akshobhya: seen once, it isn’t seen again.”
The Ancestor said, “You’ve got my flesh.”
Daoyu said, “The four great [elements] are originally empty; the five aggregates are nonexistent. My view is that there’s not a single dharma to attain.”
The Ancestor said, “You’ve got my bones.”
Finally, Huike, after making three bows, stood in his place.
The Ancestor said, “You’ve got my marrow.”
Consequently, [Bodhidharma] made him the Second Ancestor, transmitting the dharma and transmitting the robe.<3>
We should study this. The saying of the First Ancestor, “You’ve got my skin, flesh, bones, and marrow,” is the saying of an ancestor. His four followers have all got it, have all heard it. Both what they have heard and what they have got is the “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” that springs forth from body and mind, the “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” that sloughs off body and mind. The Ancestral Master is not to be perceived by “one move” of our opinions and understandings; he is not “ten appearances” of subject and object or this and that. Still, those without the correct transmission think that, since the understandings of the four disciples are familiar and remote, so the “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” spoken of by the Ancestor differ from shallow to deep. They think “skin and flesh” are more remote than “bones and marrow” and say that the Second Ancestor received the seal, “you’ve got my marrow,” because his understanding was superior. Those who talk like this have never studied the buddhas and ancestors, and lack the correct transmission of the words of the Ancestor.
We should understand that, in the words of the Ancestor, “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow,” there is no shallow or deep. Even if there are superior and inferior in the understandings, the words of the Ancestor are just “got my.” The point is that both the indication “got my marrow” and the indication “got my bones” have no adequacy and inadequacy in “for the person, engaging the person,” “picking up grass, falling into grass.” They are, for example, like “holding up a flower”; they are like “transmitting the robe.”<4> What is said to the four is equal from the beginning. While the words of the Ancestor are equal, the four understandings are not necessarily equal. While the four understandings may be “in pieces,” the words of the Ancestor are just the words of the Ancestor.
Utterances and understandings do not necessarily mandate each other. For example, in the Ancestral Master’s instruction to his four followers, he says, “you’ve got my ‘skin me.’”<5> If there were a hundred thousand followers after the Second Ancester, there should be a hundred thousand explanations; they would be inexhaustable. Since there are only four followers, we have just the four sayings, “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow”; but many sayings remain that were not said and could be said.
We should realize that, even in speaking to the Second Ancestor, he could say, “you’ve got my skin.” Even though [he were to say], “you’ve got my skin,” he would have transmitted the treasury of the eye of the true dharma [to Huike] as the second ancestor. “Got my skin” and “got my marrow” do not depend on superiority or inferiority.
Again, in speaking to Daofu, Daoyu and Zongchi, he could have said, “You’ve got my marrow.” Although [he said,] “my skin,” he could transmit the dharma [to them]. For the body and mind of the Ancestral Master, skin, flesh, bones, and marrow are all the Ancestral Master. It is not that the marrow is intimate and the skin is remote.
Now, for one who would be equipped with the eye of study, getting the seal, “you’ve got my skin,” is the investigation of getting the Ancestral Master. There is an Ancestral Master whose entire body is skin; there is an Ancestral Master whose entire body is flesh; there is an Ancestral Master whose entire body is bones; there is an Ancestral Master whose entire body is marrow. There is an Ancestral Master whose entire body is mind; there is an Ancestral Master whose entire body is body; there is an Ancestral Master whose entire mind is mind. There is an Ancestral Master who is the entire Ancestral Master; there is an Ancestral Master whose entire body is “got my you.”<6> When these Ancestral Masters appear together and speak to their hundred thousand followers, they explain, as here, “you’ve got my skin.” While their explanations are of “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow,” onlookers will vainly make their living on explanations of “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow.” If there had been six or seven followers in the Ancestral Master’s community, he could have uttered, “You’ve got my mind”; he could have uttered, “You’ve got my body.” He could have uttered, “You’ve got my buddha”; he could have uttered, “You’ve got my eyes”; he could have uttered, “You’ve got my verification.” There are occasions when the “you” here is the Ancestor and occasions when it is Huike. We should investigate in detail the principle of “got.”
We should realize that there is, “you’ve got me”; there is, “I’ve got you”; there is, “got my you”; there is, “got your me.” In our examination of the body and mind of the Ancestral Master, if we say that inner and outer are not one, or that the whole body is not his entire body, then we are not in the land where the buddhas and ancestors appear. To have got the “skin” is to have got the “bones, flesh, and marrow”; to have got the “bones, flesh, and marrow” is to have got the skin, flesh, and face. How could these be clearly comprehended only as the real body of all worlds in the ten directions? They are in addition the “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow.” Therefore, they are “got my robe”; they are “you’ve got the dharma.” Hence, the utterances are instances of “springing forth”; master and disciple investigate together. The hearings are instances of “springing forth”; master and disciple investigate together. Master and disciple investigating together is the “twining vines” of the buddhas and ancestors. The “twining vines” of the buddhas and ancestors are the vital artery of “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow.” “Holding up a flower and blinking” is “twining vines”; “breaking into a smile” is “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow.”
We should investigate further. Since the seeds of twining vines have the power to “escape the body,” there are branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit that entwine twining vines; and, because they are “interacting and not enteracting,” the buddhas and ancestors are realized, the kôan is realized.<7>
The Great Master Zhenji of Zhaozhou addressed the assembly, saying, “Kâshyapa transmitted to Ânanda. So tell me, to whom did Dharma transmit?” Thereupon, a monk asked, “Well, what about the Second Ancestor getting the marrow?” The master said, “Don’t slander the Second Ancestor.” The master again said, “Dharma had a saying that those on the outside get his skin, those on the inside get his bones. So tell me, what do those still further inside get?” A monk asked, “What’s the meaning of “getting the marrow?” The master said, “Just recognize the skin. This old monk is right here and doesn’t set up even the marrow.” The monk asked, “What’s the marrow?” The master said, “If you’re like this, you don’t get even the skin.”<8>
Given this, we should realize that, when we “don’t get even the skin,” we don’t get even the marrow. To be able to “feel for the skin” is to get the marrow. We should work away at the meaning of “if you’re like this, you don’t get even the skin.” When asked, “What is the meaning of getting the marrow?” [Zhaozhou] expressed the words, “Just recognize the skin. This old monk is right here and doesn’t set up even the marrow.” In [saying] “recognize the skin,” [he] makes “doesn’t set up even the marrow” the true meaning of getting the marrow. Therefore, [the monk] expresses the question, “what about the Second Ancestor getting the marrow?” In looking at the occasion when “Kâshyapa transmitted to Ânanda,” Ânanda hides his body in Kâshyapa, Kâshyapa hides his body in Ânanda. Nevertheless, on the occasion when they encounter each other within the transmission, they do not escape the observances of skin, flesh, bones, and marrow that “change the face.”<9> Hence, [Zhaozhou] indicates, “So tell me, to whom did Dharma transmit?” Dharma was already Dharma when he “transmitted to”; the Second Ancestor was already Dharma when he “got the marrow.” Because of the investigation of this principle, the buddha dharma remains the buddha dharma down to today. If it were not like this, the buddha dharma would not have reached us today. Quietly working on and investigating the meaning of this, we should express it ourselves; we should get others to express it. “Those on the outside get his skin, those on the inside get his bones. So tell me, what do those still further inside get?” The implication of this “outside” and “inside” should be straightforward. When we discuss “outside,” “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” are all “outside”; when we discuss “inside,” “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” are all “inside.”
This being the case, the four Dharmas have all investigated what is beyond “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow,” in each of a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand instances. Do not think that there must be nothing beyond the “marrow”; there are three or five beyond it. <10>
This address to the assembly by the Old Buddha Zhaozhou is the saying of a buddha. It is something not reached by others like [the Zen masters] Linji, Deshan, Daguei or Yunmen, something they have never dreamt of, much less spoken about. It is something the recent illiterate elders do not even know exists, and they would be startled if we told them.
The Zen Master Xuedou Ming said, “The two Zhou, Zhao and Mu, are old buddhas.”<11>
Therefore, the saying of an old buddha [like Zhaozhou] is evidence of the buddha dharma, what one has already said. <12>
The Great Master Xuefeng Zhenjue said, “The old buddha Zhaozhou.”<13>
The prior buddha and ancestor [Xuedou] praises him with the praise, “old buddha”; the latter buddha and ancestor [Xuefeng] praises him with the praise, “old buddha.” We know that [Zhaozhou] is an old buddha transcending [those of] past or present.
Therefore, the principle that “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” are the “twining vines” is the standard, “you’ve got me,” presented to the assembly by the old buddha. We should work at and invesigate this norm.
Furthermore, [we should] learn that saying the First Ancestor returned to the west is wrong. What Song Yun saw is not necessarily the case. How could Song Yun see the departure and arrival of the Ancestral Master? To know that, after the Ancestral Master returned to tranquility, he was interred at Mt. Xiong’er is orthodox learning.<14>
Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
Twining Vines, Number 38
Presented to the assembly on the seventh day of the seventh month of the first year of Kangen, mizunoto-u (1243)
at Kannon Dôri Kôshô Hôrinji, district of Uji, Yôshû