Xuansha, Great Master Zongyi, of Mt. Xuansha, Fu Region, China, of the Saha World, used to be called Shibei. His family name was Xie. When he was a householder, he loved fishing and boating on the Nantai River, doing as fishermen do. One day at the beginning of the Xiantong Era [860—873] a golden scaled fish came to him without his seeking it, and he suddenly had the urge to leave the dusty world. So he gave up his boat and went off into the mountains. He was thirty years old when he realized the precariousness of the ﬂoating world and the preciousness of the buddha way. Then he went to Mount Xuefeng and studied with Xuefeng, Great Master Zhenjiao, endeavoring in the way day and night.
One day, as he was leaving the mountain with his traveling bag to visit other monasteries to further his study, his toe hit a rock and began to bleed. In sharp pain he suddenly had a realization and said to himself “lf my body doesn’t exist, where does this pain come from?” So he went back to see Xuefeng.
Xuefeng said, “What’s with the travelling bag, Bei [Shibei]?”
Xuansha said, “No one can be fooled.”
Xuefeng loved his words and said, “Who doesn’t know these words, yet who else could say them?” Then he said, “Why doesn’t Bei with the traveling bag go and study all over?” Xuansha said, “Bodhidharma didn’t come to China. Huike didn’t go to India.” Xuefeng praised him.
Although Xuansha was a fisherman who had never read sutras, he focused on his intention to practice and was strongly determined. Xuefeng saw his practice excel in the community and regarded him as an outstanding student. The coarse cotton robe Xuansha wore all the time was worn and tattered, so wore a paper robe beneath it. He sometimes added dried mugwort grass to cover himself. He did not study with anyone other than Xuefeng. In this way, he acquired the capacity to inherit Xuefeng’s dharma.
Some years after attaining the way, Xuansha instructed his students, saying, “The entire world of the ten directions is just one bright pearl.”
Once a monk asked him, “I heard that you said, ‘The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl.’ How can I understand this?”
Xuansha said, “The entire world of the ten directions is one bright Pearl. What do you do with your understanding?”
The next day Xuansha asked the monk,“The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. How do you understand this?” The monk said, “The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. What do you do with your understanding?” Xuansha said, “I know that you have worked out a way to get through the demon’s cave on the black mountain.”
Xuansha first spoke the words the entire world in the ten directions is one bright pearl. The meaning is that the entire world of the ten directions is neither vast nor minute, neither square nor round. It is not neutral, not active, and not obvious. Because it is beyond the coming or going of birth and death, it is the coming and going of birth and death. Thus, past days have already left here and the present moment starts from here. When we investigate the entire world of the ten directions, who can see it as bits and pieces, who can talk about it as ceaseless activity?
The entire world in the ten directions means that you ceaselessly chase things and make them into the self, and you chase the self and make it into things. When emotions arise, wisdom is pushed aside. By seeing this as separation, teacher and student turn their heads and exchange their faces, unroll the great matter and harmonize their understanding. Because you chase the self and make it into things, the entire world of the ten directions is ceaseless. Because you move ahead, you do more distantly than the essential matter.
One bright pearl is not yet a name but an expression of understanding. Although there have been people who thought that it was only a name, one bright pearl directly experiences ten thousand years. While the entire past has not yet departed, the entire present is just now arriving. Here is the now of the body, and here is the now of the mind. This is the bright pearl; it is not limited to grass and trees here and there, or even to mountains and rivers in the universe.
How can I understand this? These words appear to be the monks expression of ignorance, but the great function emerges right here, actualizing the great principle. Step forward and penetrate one foot of water, one foot of wave, ten feet of pearl, ten feet of illumination.
In expressing his understanding, Xuansha said, the entire world in the ten directions is just one bright pearl. What do you do with your understanding? These words are an expression that buddhas inherit from buddhas, ancestors inherit from ancestors, and Xuansha inherits from Xuansha. If you do not want to inherit this expression, there may be a way not to do so. But even if you totally avoid it for a while, this expression arises all-inclusively right now.
The next day Xuansha asked the monk, The entire world in the ten directions is just one bright pearl. How do you understand this? This is an expression that takes up yesterday’s statement and, adding another layer, blows it back today. His question today pushes down yesterday’s nodding.
The monk said, The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. What do you do with your understanding? Speak! This is the horse of a robber on horseback chasing the robber. An authentic buddha speaking to you walks in the midst of various beings. Now turn the light inward and illuminate yourself. How many ways do you understand this? You may say, “seven layers of milk cake” or “five layers of herb cake.” Yet, there is teaching and practice south of Xian and north of Tan.