Yuanwu in the Blue Cliff Record details a plethora of unique teaching styles and character archtypes, humans - in another word. I’m going to address some, and then look at implications.
The only writers that do so as carefully are Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dickens...although each does so with fresh flavor (though Shakespeare does so most purely). It might be better to call this chapter Roots Of The Family. Nearly every example and lesson in the Blue Cliff Record is supported by, led into, or wholly pulled from an interaction, and more specifically an interaction with at least one major personality development (this later is shown to be important when looking at whether the Blue Cliff Record can be classified as a religious text). The characters embody each positive statement Yuanwu makes. Like Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dickens, there is great play in the sandbox of human individuality, extreme care is taken to expound what is being explored intellectually through fireworks of person regular-ness. I've connected with Levin from Tolstoy as he sees his farm land struggle despite his exciting and energetic, if naive, initiatives; with what Vronsky feels at his cold bath. Here’s Hideo Kojima on the sentiment of being inspired by a character:
This film was an eye-opener for me. I had no idea Americans, who seemed so cheerful, could feel lonely in the middle of a city. It resonated with me, given the loneliness that troubled me in my younger days, which is why it has a very special place in my heart. After I saw it I bought a jacket and a pair of boots to copy Robert De Niro. Needless to say, I did not get a mohawk.
Feng Hsueh, Raging Bull
One time he saw Ching Ch'ing. Ch'ing asked him, "Where
have you just come from?" Hsueh said, "I come from the East."
Ch'ing said, "And did you cross the little (Ts'ao) river?" Hsueh
said, "The great ship sails alone through the sky; there are no
little rivers to cross." Ch'ing said, "Birds cannot fly across mirror lake and picture mountain; have you not merely overheard
Feng Hsueh was a fighter that journied from what he called the
"east on air above the ground”,
composing verses whenever he met an old master. Only his whenever wasn't wherever, and his verses did not match the moment, although it would be incorrect to say that he himself didn't rise to the occasion, as he met everyone head on. A man full of poetic energy, he has the longest exchange recorded in the Blue Cliff Record, one of the most stagnant by the way of tenacity, and one of the most moving by the way of courage.
Deshan Was another Zen Master that was full of energy, but intellectual instead of poetical. His exchange with a Zen Master is shorter by the way of written word, but he spends the whole night with the Zen Master, so the story goes.
The two have similar enlightenment stories - Feng Hsueh:
“opened up in great enlightenment”
one day when a dude came up and said
“facing the situation without deferring to a teacher”.
Some students may need to force their intellect and fierce critical mind to relax, to come up with tricks like “try to see if from the other side”, but even fiercer people don’t struggle with authority, can recognize without heuristics when submission and late night sessions are the current work, can struggle through both sides before their opponent can sweat through one; or as this chapter says later:
See how an excellent student naturally has a sharp and
dangerous edge to his personality.
The Blue Cliff Record indicates these people understand upon meeting a master that endures, does not give up, which is not a given as we learn from this Chapter:
Even Nan Yuan couldn't
really handle him.
This may be signifying that intelligence has been loaned to the seaker, in this case Feng Hsue, and the interest on the debt is loner-ness, a potential Raging Bull.
Finding someone that can endure a Dehan through the night, or that stays with Feng Hsueh enough to offer him tea:
indeed. Now sit and have tea."
is rare, apparently. Finally Feng “opened up in great enlightenment” when the master offered to him the suggestion that solace won’t be found in even someone that loves you, and who can strength through your inherent gifts, but the whole world, every “situation”, is ready to be your friend even without the filter of acceptance. People of lower faculty aren’t below you, and those that sympathise with you are ultimately frail nests. At times though, a “steep and solitary” sparrow finds a home.
Huangbo, Gentle Giant
The First line in Chapter Eleven called “Huangbo’s Gobblers of Dregs”:
“Huangbo was seven feet tall”
Haha, being seven feet tall is an inherent and not earned attribute. Nothing special, it just naturally manifests. No effort involved, no intellectual prowess especially used. This comment on stature is much like the picture of Huangbo and his ability to function that Yuanwu shows with story and poems and interactions with other zen masters, and even emperors!
It’s clear Huaingbo’s actions were impressive and yet not based on skill. When a monk comes up to him and asks:
Then a monk came forward and said, “Then what about those who order followers and lead
After Huaungb asked the community:
“Do you know that there are no
Chan teachers in all of China?
Yuanwu comments on that:
He makes a good point...After all Huangbo couldn’t explain so he broke down and said “I didn’t say there is no Chan, just that there are not teachers”
Huangbo breaks down, backs down. He does not have the lightning intellect of Fan hsueh, he can't keep up with what he himself sets up, at least in a way that is expected. Instead, Huangbo is naturally always prepared, In fact, he even sets down a welcome mat for such instances. Yuanwu says:
“The whole idea is to set out a hook to fish out people’s questions”
When not setting up his community with tricky questions that he can't himself answer, he falls back on a more...simple set of behaviors, as seen in the same chapter.
When lin chi was in his community, my chou was the head monk. Mu Chou asked Lin Chi, "How long have you been here? Why don't you go as Hunagbo a question?...Chi them went and asked Huanbo; three times he was beaten and driven out"
Three times he (Lin Chi) was beaten and driven out. Ha. Lumbering giant, anyone?
But as we often find with those of natural ability or inherent talents, Huangbo is humble. And it makes sense, why would you need to be haughty when you are seven feet tall, no one is a challenge! The literary trope of gentle giant exists because it is a common occurrence in reality. Yuanwu and Xuedo consider this a very important virtue:
His cold severe solitary mien does not take pride in itself; (He himself doesn’t know he has it. He too is a clouddwelling saint
A man with no competition doesn't consider the challenges of his competitors. He can:
Sometimes stand on alone on a solitary peek, sometimes you stretch out in the bustling marketplace
What does a man, that’s not only great, but naturally acquainted with greatness, have that requires him to search for the possible solace of pride? And the rest of us…? We take Huangbo and his kin as example, into our hearts, fearless and faceless, huge but never haughty, so that we may be, too.
It's not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don't even exercise.