Prajna Humor

In the numerous question-answer exchanges between the Master and those in the audience, the Master's unexpected answers often caught people off guard and filled them with the joy of Dharma, evoking cheers and rounds of applause. His humorous answers, fraught with hidden Chan meanings, always hit right on the mark and pointed straight at the mind. Let us quote a passage from Chapter Eight "Sudden and Gradual" of the Sixth Patriarch Sutra to shed light on the Master's Prajna humor:

Those who see their own nature can establish dharmas in their minds or not establish them as they choose. They come and go freely, without impediments or obstacles. They function correctly and speak appropriately, seeing all transformation bodies as integral with the self-nature. That is precisely the way they obtain independence, spiritual powers, and the samadhi of playfulness. This is what is called seeing the nature.

The meaning of this passage is that people of genuine enlightenment who have understood the mind and seen the nature can establish methods or not establish them. They come and go without obstruction. They have freedom over life and death. If someone asks them a question, they can answer without thinking, but their answers have principle. They don't speak recklessly. They see transformation bodies everywhere, but these transformation bodies are within the self-nature. At all times they contemplate with independence and have the five eyes and six spiritual powers. People who have seen their nature can answer spontaneously without fear of answering wrong and misleading others. Below are some of the Master's answers to questions asked by the audience:

If no one has blessed ("opened the light on") a Buddha image, can we bow to it?
Answer: If your mind is free of attachments, the Buddha image is always blessed. If your mind is attached, then even if it is blessed, it's just the same as if it hadn't been blessed.

How can we avoid an earthquake?
Answer: If no one gets angry, there won't be any earthquakes.

How can I end birth and death?
Answer: Eat, dress, and sleep.

What Sutra or mantra should we recite that will make it easiest to become a Buddha?
Answer: Recite the Sutra of not getting angry, the Sutra of not scolding others, and the Sutra of not losing your temper. With these three Sutras, you'll become a Buddha real soon!

How can we cut off lust?
Answer: Don't think about it, and you will have cut it off! If you keep thinking about it, how can you cut it off? Be aware of each thought as soon as it arises; once you are aware of it, it goes away.

Dharma Master, where will you go after you enter perfect stillness?
Answer: Nowhere at all!

How can we break through attachments and random thoughts?
Answer: Who gave you attachments? Who gave you random thoughts?

How can we "produce the thought which is nowhere supported"?
Answer: Where is your mind? First tell me that.

Ultimately, is it people who fear ghosts or ghosts who fear people?
Answer: If you have ghosts in your mind, then people fear ghosts. If there are no ghosts in your mind, then ghosts fear people.

How can we secure rebirth?
Answer: Why do you want to be reborn? How can you make it when you're dragging so much junk around?
The Venerable Master on the campus of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver in 1990

The Venerable Master on the campus of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver in 1990.

Someone once said to the Master, "It makes me feel so bad to see the Master using a walking cane and taking on so much karma for living beings. I hope the Master will be compassionate and live a long time." The Venerable Master immediately flung his cane aside, evoking a round of applause, and asked, "Do you feel better now?" This was the Master's wonderful Prajna of being able to "leave all appearances while in the midst of appearances." Don't you find this thought-provoking? Throughout his entire life, the Master emphasized "not getting angry" and "being patient with insult," because "The Buddhadharma is here in the world; / Enlightenment is not apart from the world. / To search for Bodhi apart from the world / Is like looking for a hare with horns." The Master said: "If a person can refrain from losing his temper, all his karmic obstacles will be cancelled at once." It is interesting to note two famous mantras that the Master composed:

Patience, patience, gotta have patience.
Don't get angry, suo po he!

Purge the fire in your liver,
And you'll be free from all illness.
What a shame this wonderful elixir
Gets stored away and forgotten altogether!
Suo po he.

If we read the Master's talks and answers to questions with careful attention, they will easily activate the wisdom inherent in our natures. As it is said, "General summaries and detailed explanations all express truth in the primary sense." As the Master often said,

You don't have to believe in me or believe in the Buddha. Believe in your own inherent wisdom. Discover the Prajna in your own nature. Then you'll attain Dharma-selecting Vision. You'll know to advance upon the Way and to retreat from what is not the Way. Don't wear your hat like a shoe.

Excerpt from Upasaka Youbing Chen's thesis,
"Discussion of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's Contibutions to Buddhism,"
p. 444 - 446, "In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Vol. III"