Bright and Clear

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori, Roshi
True Dharma Eye, Case 88
Lingzhou's "Bright and Clear"

Featured in Mountain Record 24.4, Summer 2006

The Main Case

While sitting, Layman Pangyun asked his daughter Lingzhou, “A teacher of old said, ‘Bright and clear are the one hundred grasses,1 bright and clear is the meaning of the ancestral teaching.’2 How about yourself?”3 Lingzhou said, “How could someone who is mature and great say such a thing?”4 Pangyun said, “How would you say it?”5 Lingzhou said, “Bright and clear are the one hundred grasses, bright and clear is the meaning of the ancestral teaching.”6 Pangyun laughed.7

The Commentary

Samsara is nirvana, nirvana is samsara. There is fundamentally no difference between them. Mountains, rivers, the great earth, and one’s own self—where is the distinction to be found? This being the case, then why is everything divided into two sides? Where dragons and snakes are intermingled, even the sages cannot see into it. When going against and in accord with, vertically and horizontally, even the buddhas cannot speak of it.

The Capping Verse

Ten thousand things are the true dharma.
The ten directions are one reality.
Don't you know?
The dharmakaya is not like anything.


1. Exiting the gate, there is grass all over. Entering the gate, there is grass all over. There is no place where it does not reach.
2. Although it’s so, it’s a shame to have said it.
3. It would seem that he wants to drag her into the pit with him.
4. She will have none of that.
5. He won’t let her go.
6. They know how to switch heads without batting an eye.
7. This is a thief recognizing a thief. Since they are from the same household, they know well the contents of the cupboard.

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This koan is one of the cases in Master Dogen’s Three Hundred Koan Shobogenzo, as well as one of four in that collection that concern Layman Pangyun. This layman was a very unusual practitioner who lived during the Golden Age of Zen in China. He visited many masters, came to enlightenment under Shitou, and finally experienced an even deeper awakening with the great master Mazu, and so he is considered to be one of his successors. Pangyun followed the lay tradition of Vimalakirti, the white-robed layman who lived at the time of the Buddha. Like Vimalakirti, Layman Pang has been regarded throughout Zen history as a profoundly awakened master and an inspiration for lay practitioners.