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This book pages form the record of events that really happened in the Tang period China in the 8th century at Guoqing Temple secluded on Mount Tiantai. For this no extra charge has been made with the exception of joyful insight into the background of the four figures: three eccentric persons and the forth, the unnamed tigress, a creature on the back of which Chan monk Feng Gan usually rode.
Legends concerning the "Tiantai Trio" recorded in Buddhist biographical sources tell us next to nothing about the main events of their life. They focus instead on conversations Han Shan (Japanese Kanzan) had with Shi De (Jittoku) and their common old master Feng Gan (Bukan) who was understood as incarnation of the Buddha Amitabha. The historical Chan (Zen) iconoclasts are pictured all the three immersed in deep slumber, leaning fondly on the sleepy tigress. It is generally interpreted as symbolizing the absolute tranquillity of the universe for those who have attained complete enlightenment. In these accounts, they are invariably portrayed, in good Chan fashion, as poor but happy recluses, bordering on the crazy, who constantly do and say nonsensical things. A number of these stories read like "gong an" (Japanese "koan," also known as "test on entering samadhi"). Intoxicated by crazy wisdom, the bawdy, spontaneous behaviour of these unorthodox spiritual masters rarely conformed to the rigid strictures, materialistic values, and arid proprieties of respectable society. Irreverently flaunting their uncompromising freedom by subverting all forms of social convention and superficial value systems, these enlightened lunatics had a genius for shaking up the religious establishment and keeping alive the inner meaning of spiritual truth during the time of mainstream Buddhism's external decline, continuing to motivate and challenge those members of society open to such inspired spiritual influence while appearing mad from the banal, ordinary point of view. At another level, all the three are also prototypes of the crazy saints, wise men, sages, and itinerant hermits who contrast so markedly with the ordinary monastic brotherhood and worldly society lifestyles.
This book pages form the record of events that, according to tradition, really happened in the Tang period China in the 8th century at Guoqing Temple nestled on Mount Tiantai. For this no extra charge has been made with the exception of joyful insight into the background of the four figures: three eccentric persons and the forth, the unnamed tigress, embodiment of Mother Nature, a creature on the back of which Chan monk Feng Gan usually rode. All the four were not poetic ideals, but sentient beings of flesh and blood. At another level, Feng Gan, Han Shan, and Shi De are also prototypes of the crazy saints, wise men, sages, and itinerant hermits who contrast so markedly with the ordinary monastic brotherhood and worldly society lifestyles of the vast majority in any culture or civilization. We listen to their advices, methods, and teachings, and, sometimes, follow their poetic prescriptions. When one of his rivals snidely predicted that Han Shan poems would soon be relegated to the kitchen, where it would be used as scrap to cover soy sauce pots, he only smiled and said nothing. As successive generations of readers find many observations preserved in his poetry fresh and ever new, perhaps Han Shan has had the last laugh after all. The whole things read like a treatise poem from Han Shan handscroll written by Shi De brush, or rather his crude broom, with which he could beat anyone of bullies, even the King of Mountain, the warrior guardian with furious face, protruding eyes, and a long staff in his mighty hands. In moments of whimsy and frenzy we give all the three magical and marvellous power skills in taming wildlife and healing by means of incantations, ability to disappear and reappear at will, power to penetrate into cliffs and cross the stream on one single leaf. Even techniques for summoning up from the other dimensions the six spirits to be then able to call them forth to obey their commands whenever needed, continually defeating the six internal thieves, as well as methods for calming troubled souls and staying the natural process of decay and many other amazing things they had all to themselves. In addition, such stories, if they are good, lead us into the solemn presence of some truth, which most of us enjoy indirectly, not having paid the heavy price out of our hearts, in their most secret gleanings, the precious and inconvertible treasures of our own dreams.