Speaking in silence, silent in speech,
The door of giving is wide open without obstruction.
If someone asks what basic principle I interpret,
I will say it is the power of Mahaprajna.
Others do not know whether I am right or wrong,
Even devas cannot fathom whether I oppose or agree.
I have practiced for many kalpas;
I am not deceiving you as some idlers are.
A great Ch’an practitioner may seem right, wrong, unfathomable, even crazy. A Dharma teacher once complained to me about a Ch’an master. “The guy’s crazy, ” he said. “When you talk about existence, he talks about non-existence. When you talk about self, he talks about no-self. If you begin talking about non-existence, then he talks about existence. You can’t win. Everytime you say something, he says the opposite. If I were you, I wouldn’t pay any attention to him. He’s nuts!”
This particular Ch’an master does not necessarily act that way with everyone, nor does he act like that all the time. It depends on the situation. Sometimes he may seem normal. He may say ordinary things. Other times he may appear to be completely irrational. You cannot judge such a person.
In the daytime you might find him prostrating to aBuddha statue, and at night chopping it up for firewood. He might free an animal ready to be slaughtered and then sit down to a hot bowl of chicken soup. There is no standard of behavior you can measure him against.
There was a modern Ch’an master called the Living Buddha of Gold Mountain. A rich man asked him to help his daughter who was dying from tuberculosis. The doctors had given up on her. When the master reached her bedside, he gathered her in his arms and kissed her full on the lips. She struggled to get away, and others tried to stop him, but he held tight for ten minutes. Then he let go, turned around and vomited a pile of putrid, black filth. The people were shocked and disgusted. They asked how he could stand to suck it out of her. He said, “What’s so awful about this? As a matter of fact, it’s quite good.” He scooped the filth up, fried it and ate it. By the way, the girl was cured.
I do not think you would consider him an ordinary person. What he says and does may have no rhyme or reason, but you do not have the power of practice to understand. His actions are backed by the experience of long-time practice. You cannot understand him, much less imitate him. If you kissed someone dying of tuberculosis, you would probably die too.
— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 168)