Su Dongpo and Zen Master Foyin
Su Shi was a prominent figure during the Song Dynasty, renowned for his literary, artistic, calligraphic, pharmaceutical, and political contributions. He was also one of the most notable poets of his era and was known by his courtesy name, Zizhan, and his pseudonym, Dongpo Jushi (東坡居士 “Resident of Dongpo”). Su Dong Po is the commonly used name to refer to him.
In the realm of Chinese literature, Su Shi is widely recognized as a highly accomplished figure, having produced some of the most well-known poems, lyrics, prose, and essays.
Su Dongpo was a close friend of an esteemed monk named Foyin, and the two often practiced Zen meditation together. There were many stories about the two.
Buddha and Cow Dung
One day, Su Shi decided to play a prank on his good friend Foyin. He asked him, “What do I look like in your eyes?”
Foyin replied, “In my eyes, you look like a Buddha.”
Su Shi then asked, “Do you know what you look like in my eyes?” Foyin replied that he did not know.
Su Shi gleefully exclaimed, “In my eyes, you look like a pile of cow dung!”
Upon returning home, Su Shi shared his victory with his younger sister, Su Xiaomei. However, she frowned upon hearing this and told her brother that he had lost the exchange. She explained that if a person has Buddha in their heart, they will see the Buddha’s qualities in everything around them. Conversely, if a person has impure thoughts and feelings, they will see everything as dirty and unpleasant. She pointed out that Foyin’s heart was pure, while Su Shi’s was not.
Eight winds and a Fart
Su Dongpo was not only a renowned literary figure but also a Buddhist disciple who regularly practiced meditation.
One day, after a particularly serene meditation session, Su Shi felt that he had made a significant realization. He decided to capture his experience in a poem, which read, “Sitting still on the lotus platform, even the eight winds cannot move me.”
Curious about the authenticity of his realization, Su Shi asked his servant to deliver the poem to Zen Master Foyin, who resided in the Jinshang Temple across the river.
Upon receiving the poem, the Zen Master smiled and wrote two large characters on a piece of paper, which he instructed the servant to take back to Su Dongpo.
Excited to receive feedback from the Zen Master, Su Dongpo eagerly unfolded the paper, hoping to see praise for his state of practice.
However, instead of receiving the expected validation, Su Dongpo was infuriated to see the two characters “fart” written on the paper. Without hesitation, he boarded a boat and crossed the river to confront Zen Master Foyin.
When Su Dongpo arrived at the Jinshan Temple, he found the Zen Master waiting for him on the shore. In a loud and accusatory tone, Su Dongpo asked, “Great monk! You and I are best friends. If you don’t appreciate my poems and my practice, it’s fine. How can you slander me?”
The Zen Master remained unperturbed and asked, “How did I slander you?”
Su Dongpo then showed him the word “fart” written in the poem.
The Zen Master burst into laughter and exclaimed, “Ah! Didn’t you say ‘Eight winds cannot move you’? How come just one fart was enough to blow you over the river?”
The “Eight Winds” refer to the eight worldly concerns: gain and loss, honor (fame) and disgrace (dishonor or infamy), praise and ridicule (censure, blame or criticism), pleasure and suffering (pain). Eight situations that normally preoccupy and sway unrealized people. To be unmoved by these Eight winds is a mark of a true buddhist practitioner.
Su Dongpo and Zen Master Foyin
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