The Cup in Which the Altar Wine Is Served

End of the 1997 summer retreat at Donghwa-sa


From Finding the True Self by Jinje, the 1st ed. (p.70)




What compels a man to throw away his robes 
and bowl and live the life of a recluse?


Dharma is so vast that it has no need for any mandate from an emperor consecrated by Heaven;
All sentient beings serenade peace on Earth.


If we could transform all activities of everyday life into occasions for practice, we could live content and carefree as our body and mind grow happy and healthy, liberated from distress and trouble. How, then, do we practice? Keep asking yourself:

What is my true self from before I was born?

Keep asking until such questioning develops into an unceasing flow of single-minded focus on your hwadu. This will lay to rest all the afflictions and anxieties clouding your mind; in their place, a pure and clear mind will slowly settle in and take root.

One of the true disciples of Dongshan Liangjie was Xianzi. After he received the Dharma seal from Seon Master Dongshan, Xianzi flung down his monastic robes and alms bowl, abandoned the precepts, and wandered the world with no fixed home. He sustained himself on shrimp and shellfish he caught on the river bank and slept at night buried in a mound of paper money dedicated to a tomb shrine called the White Horse.

Hearing about Xianzi, Master Huayan Xiujing went to see him. Master Huayan hid himself underneath the pile of paper money, and when Xianzi finally showed up at night, the master suddenly put his arms around Xianzi’s waist and, in the pitch darkness, asked him, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the west?”

Xianzi answered: “It is the cup in which altar wine is served.”

Master Huayan bowed in admiration of Xianzi’s wisdom and praised him by saying, “How surprising to find such a lofty and noble eye among the students of Master Dongshan!” Then Master Huayan left.

What an inscrutable mystery Dharma is that it compels a man to throw away his monastic robes and alms bowl and live the life of a recluse!

So, this mountain monk will now ask you: do you know Xianzi?

Myriad buddhas of the past, present, and future are mere figures in a dream.
Spiritual seekers of the Four Seas and Five Lakes!
Drink up a bowl of icy water and lay to rest your delusions.
Who is the most beautiful person in the world?
It is the one who answers, “It is a cup in which altar wine is served.”