A search for the source of a Zen koan leads David Weinstein on a Valentine’s Day tour of koan history and many lineage teachers: “It’s like a murder mystery, tracing the clues, a prime suspect emerges, but then there’s a twist and it’s someone else, until finally, in the end I realize the prime suspect is me.”
A student (wanting to add this koan to the website) asked:
What is the source of the Bankei’s Miracle koan?
And David Weinstein answered, and answered, and answered:
So far the only reference in any translation of Bankei’s teaching that I could find was in a book by Peter Haskel called Bankei Zen, p. 80:
“Be stupid!” I tell my students and those of you coming regularly here to the temple.
“Be stupid! Because you’ve got the dynamic function of the marvelously illuminating Buddha Mind, even if you get rid of discriminative understanding, you won’t be foolish. So, all of you, from here on, be stupid!
“Even if you’re stupid, when you’re hungry, you’ll ask for something to eat, when you’re thirsty, you’ll ask for some tea; when it gets warm, you’ll put on thin, light clothes, and when it’s cold, you’ll put on more clothes. As far as your activities of today are concerned, you’re not lacking a thing!” (Bankei)
(There is footnote #21, which might give a reference, but I’m not at home and only have a digital version of the book which doesn’t have any actual footnotes.)
Also, Yuanwu makes mention of this in two of his commentaries in the Blue Cliff (Cleary’s version, p. 487) in Case 88 he quotes Xuedou:
Hsueh Tau says, “I am not Li Lu, nor am I Shih K’uang. How can this compare to sitting alone beneath an empty window? The leaves fall, the flowers bloom—each in its own time.”
If you get to this realm, though you see, it’s like not seeing; though you hear, it’s like not hearing; though you speak, it’s like not speaking. When hungry you eat and when tired you sleep. You let the leaves fall and the flowers bloom. When the leaves fall it’s autumn; when the flowers bloom it’s spring—each has its own time and season.
In Case 78, on p. 431:
When you stretch out both feet and sleep, there’s no false and there’s no true—thus, there isn’t a single concern in one’s heart. When hungry, one eats; when tired, one sleeps.”
There is also this from Dazhu Huihai (713-812?) in a text titled The Record of Questions Asked by Disciples from Everywhere (or, Discourse Records of Dazhu and Visiting Students from All Quarters) which may be the earliest I can find. So, as John said, it comes from the Tang Dynasty, though the ‘miracle’ part may be Bankei’s if it is Bankei’s at all.
Once a Vinaya Master came and asked: “In your practice of the Tao, do you still work hard?”
The Master answered: “Yes, I still work hard.”
The Vinaya Master asked: “How hard?”
The Master retorted: “If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m tired, I sleep. “
Which is the earliest I can find. So, as John said, it comes from the Tang Dynasty, though the ‘miracle’ part may be Bankei’s if it is Bankei’s at all.
Thanks for asking, I had a good time chasing it down. (David)
Found this also, it is in Blofeld’s Zen Teachings of Instantaneous Awakening, p. 71:
A Vinaya Master named Yüan once came and asked,
“Do you make efforts in your practice of the Way, Master?”
M: “Yes, I do.”
M: “When hungry, I eat; when tired, I sleep.”
Q: “And does everybody make the same efforts as you do, Master?”
M: “Not in the same way.”
Q: “Why not?”
M: “When they are eating, they think of a hundred kinds of necessities, and when they are going to sleep they ponder over affairs of a thousand different kinds. That is how they differ from me.”
It would seem Bankei may have gotten the ‘Unborn’ from Hui Hai also. Hui Hai credits “The Patriarch,” whom I assume is Bodhidharma:
The Venerable Yün Kuang once asked, “Master, do you know where you will be reborn?”
Master: “We have not died yet; so what is the use of discussing our rebirths? That which knows birth is the unborn. We cannot stray from birth to speak of the unborn. The Patriarch once said, ‘That which undergoes birth is really unborn.'”
It’s like a murder mystery, tracing the clues, a prime suspect emerges, but then there’s a twist and it’s someone else, until finally, in the end I realize the prime suspect is me.
In the process of dipping into who the suspects were, when they were, and other things they’d said, becoming more intimate with them in that way, I become more intimate with not only what they said, but also with what they were saying it about.
The effort of tracing it back to the beginning leads to right here. (David)
According to Burton Watson’s translation of Linji, p. 77:
When you get hungry, eat your rice; when you get sleepy, close your eyes.
Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean.
There is a footnote #6 which explains that this is “From the poem by Ming-tsan, or Lan-tsan, of Mount Nanyiieh already quoted in section 13.”
The note in section 13 explain, “From a poem attributed to the eighth-century Ch’an master Ming-tsan, or Lan-tsan, of Mount Nan-yiieh.”
I can’t find anything about Ming-tsan or Lan-tsan, don’t know where Burton found them.
Kirchner’s Linji, p. 185 has:
The master addressed the assembly, saying, “Followers of the Way, as to buddha dharma, no effort is necessary. You have only to be ordinary, with nothing to do—defecating, urinating, wearing clothes, eating food, and lying down when tired. Fools laugh at me, But the wise understand.
Yunmen’s “you have misspoken” comes to mind. None of these folks are giving credit to who they’re quoting, they’ve made it their own, just as Yunmen himself made “the light that we all have inside that gets carried into the meditation hall” his own, though Tanxia said it centuries before him. Making it his own opened up “I’d rather have nothing than something good.”
Just as making it his own opened Bankei to it being a miracle.
Bankei Yōtaku (1622-1693) And Cohort David Weinstein