Offspring Ch'an

It's Portraits, Koans and Poems

The Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen

According to my humble opinion Ch'an should be classified into four types: Tathagata Ch'an, Patriarch Ch'an, Offspring Ch'an and Verbal Ch'an. To explain the difference, Tathagata Ch'an is like a geography book, Patriarch Ch'an is like a map, while Offspring Ch'an is like the immediate arrival of teacher and disciple without walking, and Verbal Ch'an is foolish talk. In the next to last offering in this booklet entitled 'Tan Hsia" Master Chou's teaching is that of Patriarch Ch'an while Tan's is of Offspring Ch'an. The difference is very clear.

In this booklet on the left page may be seen the portrait of a great Ch'an master drawn during his lifetime, while on the right hand page may be found at the top the main Koan associated with that master and at the bottom of the page there is my poem written as an explanation, complement or praise of that Ch'an Master.

Verbal Ch'an could be found even in ancient times and nowadays most Ch'an masters and Ch'an books are of this kind. Many youths have been cheated by such with false freedom, self-pride and laziness. It is very pitiful. I hope that this booklet will give them a turn toward right understanding.


Ma-Tzu is asked by the great lay Ch'anist Pang Yun, "Don't be obscure about natural man, try lifting up your eyes." Ma-Tzu looks downward. Pang then says, "The same violin you played much better." Ma-Tzu then looks upward. Pang then gives thanks with a bow.

Killed beings by foot, but not by mouth,
All were led under your light-house !
Shines on the offspring's like so long!
The face of moon, the face of sun !

Shih Tou

Shih Tou asks the Ch'an monk named Chang Tzu, "Where do you come from?" Chang replies, "The Southern mount!" "Did the merit of mount achieve?" Shih asks again. Chang answers, "Yes! But did not point out the eye." "Do you want to point?" Shih asks. Chang says, "Yes!". Shih then lifts up his right foot! Chang bows for his blessing. Shih asks, "What have you seen?" "I saw a little bit of snow falling on the fire," Chang answers.

The path of rock is so smooth,
Yet walks on clog with one tooth.
He holds an axe in his hand,
Cuts your head to show the truth !

Nan Chuan

The Eastern and Western chambers struggle for one cat. Nan hangs it up and says, "If you can talk about the truth, you can save it, otherwise I will kill it!" No one can say. Nan Chuan cuts it into two pieces! When his real disciple Chou Chu comes back, he is asked the same question. Chou takes off one of his sandals and puts it on his head and goes out. Nan says, "If you were here, it might have been saved!"

He need not leave the southern spring,
Yet has water and grass and all things.
It is so usual and so plain,
The great Buffalo has no skin!

Yao San

Yao San and Yun Yen take a short trip on the mountain. Yao hangs a sword on his girdle which moves and makes a little noise. Yun Yen asks what is that sound. Yao San then takes out the sword from the sheath and makes a gesture as if to kill Yun Yen. The latter does instantly comprehend.

Cut off the play words,
How sharp is the sword!
Sometimes makes a roar,
All would say "no more!"

Huang Niegh

Huang asks Pai Chang, "What is the essential teaching?" Pai replies, "When I heard Ma-Tzu's hoot, I became deaf for three days." Huang then puts out his tongue. Pai says, "Do you like to be Ma-Tzu's disciple?" Huang replies, "If I wanted to be his disciple, it might cut off my offspring!"

There is no Guru in his eye!
Nor he treats Ma-Tzu as the sky!
He changed the world "fall" with obscure,
Save the old fox, who knows why?!

Yun Yen

Yao San asks Yun Yen, "What is the teaching of Pai Chang?" Yun replies, "He sometimes says vomit out the surplus three sentences; sometimes says comprehend it within the six sentences." Yao San says, "It is apart from the truth by three thousand miles! Does he say something else?" Yun says, "Once he assembled all the monks together and drove them away without teaching. But when they were going, he called them back and asked them 'What is this?' " Yao then says, "Why did you not speak of this teaching first?" Yun Yen immediately comprehends!

It is a little bit.
No need so much wit!
If you could not hit,
Better is vomit!

Chou Chu

One monk asks Chou Chu, "I am newly come here, please teach me frankly!" Chou Chu asks him, "Did you take rice?" Monk replied, "Yes!" "Then please wash your bowl!" Chou Chu says. The monk comprehends instantly.

After meal teaches the monk to wash,
The plain truth makes the monk a hush !
Now many a monk passing the temple,
Is there anyone who does know to cash?

Teh San

Hsueh Feng asks Teh San, "May I share the super practical yana?" Ten San strikes him and says, "What is your saying?" Hsueh says, "I don't know!" The next morning Hsueh comes again. Teh says, "Our practical school has no teaching! Surely we don't give any Dharma to anyone!" Hsueh comprehends immediately!

You know or not, he beats;
Strikes the iron when heat.
To him many do greet,
Few really taste the sweet!

Kuei San

Pai Chang sends Kuei San to propagate the Ch'an in Kuei Mountain of Hunan Province. But his chief disciple Rev. Hwa Lin wants to go there, too. Pai Chang then points out a bottle and says "What would you like to name it? If I do not allow you to call it as usual as a bottle!" Hwa Lin says, "We should not call it as a wooden wedge!" Pai Chang asks Kuei San to answer this. Kuei turns over the bottle and goes away! Then Pai Chang sends Kuei San on the mission. As the Kuei Mount in Hunan Province is an auspicious geomancy, 1500 monks are assembled there in a main monastery of the Kuei Yang sect of the Ch'an SchoolCone among the five sects.

Wooden wedge or clay bottle, all are name,
Holy place deserved by the no-fame!
One kick makes many monks alive,
How wonderful is such a game!

Yen Tou

Yen Tou appears in the Dharma-Hall of Teh San and looks upward. Teh San asks, "What are you doing?" Yen Tou replies with a hoot! Teh San asks, "What is my wrong?" Yen Tou says, "A double Koan!" When they meet the next morning, Teh San says "Are you the newly coming monk?" Yen Tou says, "Yes!" "Where did you learn such a false talk?", Teh San asks again. Yen Tou says, "I never cheat myself."

There are few who go beyond the last pass!
Many are under rod but not the class!
Though the spring wind pervades everywhere,
The great buffalo holds only one grass!

Lin Chi

Lin Chi asks Huang Nieh, "What is the general Principle of Buddhism?" Huang strikes him. Thus three times he asks and gets strike three times also. When he takes leave, Huang sends him to Tai-Yu. Tai-Yu after hearing about how Lin Chi has been treated then says, "How great and merciful is the old woman!" Lin Chi instantly comprehends and says to himself, "Buddhism is no more than a little bit!"

It seems to concern the time and condition,
When it happens it's eventually nothing!
There's no man to push it on nor take it off,
How long should one cut off the transmigration!

Hsuan Hsa

Hsuan Hsa lives in Hsueh Fen Temple and works hard. Hsueh Fen calls him as Tou To. He replies, "I never cheat others!" Hsueh asks, "Why do you not search for your Guru elsewhere?" Hsuan Hsa says, "Bodhidharma never comes to the east, Second Patriarch never goes to the west!"

Bodhidharma comes not to the East,
Second Patriarch goes not to the West.
The deaf, blind, dumb men have no waste,
He is not the host nor the guest!

Tou Tzu

Tou Tzu is advised by his teacher Yuan Chien to doubt the story or Koan concerning "Why the outsider asks Buddha for neither talking nor no-talking?" After three years his teacher asks him, "Do you remember your Hwa Tou (Koan)?" Tou Tzu just wants to open his mouth. Yuan Chien quickly covers his mouth with his finger. Tou Tzu immediately comprehends.

He already asks for no-talking.
Should your mouth be without shutting.
Though it is only a finger,
Makes heaven and hell departing!

Tan Hsia

Master Chou says, "In the cosmos there is a gem which has been kept in secret in the mountain!" But Tan Hsia criticizes him that he only knows to point it out but cannot give it to anyone. "Now I break the mountain and take it to you," he says. (The former is Patriarch Ch'an while the latter is Offspring Ch'an.)

Kick it away and break it,
Take it up and let you meet.
You may use it as cash,
You may taste it as sweet!

Niao Ko

Niao Ko always lives in a bird's nest. He has an attendant named Hui Tung who lives there close to his nest for many years. One day he takes leave from Niao. The latter asks, "Where shall you go?" Hui replies, "I became Bhikshu for the Ch'an but I did not get any teaching from you. So I have to seek another teacher." Niao Ko says, "If you are searching for Ch'an, I also have a little here." Thereupon he takes a tiny feather from the nest and blows it away. Hui Tung instantly comprehends.

Though it is a little feather
Beyond hither and thither,
For many years he is blind,
Now so easily to find!!

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