Where Is the Barrier
Dharma Talk by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei
Blue Cliff Record, Case 56
Quinshan’s One Arrowpoint Smashes Three Barriers
Featured in Mountain Record 28.2, Winter 2009
The buddhas never appeared in the world—there is nothing to be given to people. The Ancestor never came from the West—he never passed on the transmission by mind. Since people of these times do not understand, they frantically search outside themselves. They are far from knowing that the One Great Matter right where they are cannot be grasped even by a thousand sages. Right now, where do seeing and not seeing, hearing and not hearing, speaking and not speaking, knowing and not knowing come from? If you are unable to apprehend clearly, then try to understand inside the cave of entangling vines. To test, I cite this: look!
The Main Case
Chan traveler Liang asked Qinshan, “How is it when a single arrowhead smashes three barriers?”
Qinshan said, “Bring out the lord within the barriers for me to see.”
Liang said, “So then knowing my fault I must change.”
Shan said, “Why wait any longer?”
Liang said, “A well–shot arrow doesn’t hit anywhere,” and (started to) leave.
Shan said, “Come here a minute.” Liang turned his head; Shan held him tight and said, “Leaving aside for a moment a single arrow- head smashing three barriers, let’s see you shoot an arrow.” Liang hesitated, so Shan hit him seven times and said, “I’ll allow this fellow will be doubting for thirty more years.”
The Capping Verse
I bring out the master within the barriers for you—
You disciples who would shoot an arrow, don't be careless!
Take an eye, and the ears go deaf;
Let go an ear, and the eyes both go blind.
I can admire a single arrowpoint smashing three barriers—
The trail of the arrow is truly clear.
You don't see?
Xuansha had words for this:
“A great adept is the primordial ancestor of mind.”