When Lu Hsi-sheng first visited Ch'an master Yang-shan, he asked the Master, "If the three gates of the monastery are all open, through which one should I enter?"

"Through the Gate of Faith," answered the Master.

"What good are the other two?" Hsi-sheng asked.

"You may also enter through them," declared the Master.

"What are they?" inquired Hsi-sheng.

"One is the Gate of Wisdom, and the other is the Gate of Compassion," the Master replied.

"If we enter through only one, why do we need three?" Hsi-sheng asked pointedly.

Yang-shen explained, "Those who use the Gate of Faith enter through the Buddha, those who use the Gate of Wisdom enter through the Dharma, and those who use the Gate of Compassion enter through the Sangha. In other words, one may enter the Buddha's Path by means of any one of the Gates of the Three Precious Ones."


Inside the preaching hall, Lu Hsi-sheng continued his questioning, "What will happen if one enters the Buddha realm without leaving the realm of the demons?"

Master Yang-shan waved his whisk upside down three times. After seeing this, Lu Hsi-sheng prostrated and then asked, "Master, do you still keep the precepts?"

"No!." he snapped.

"Do you still sit in meditation?"

Again the Master declared, "No!" Lu Hsi-sheng was lost in thought. The master asked, "Do you understand?"

"No!" he exclaimed.

Yang-shan then explained what he meant in a verse:

The enlightened person observes no precepts even when tempted to do so,
And does not meditate even when alone.
After two or three cups of strong tea,
All subtle meanings exist alongside the hoe.


There is a saying: "Every road leads to Ch'ang-an." It can equally be said that "every gate opens onto Buddhism." The most important practices for entering the gate leading to Buddhahood are to keep the precepts and to sit in meditation, yet Ch'an Master Yang-shan claimed that he did neither. Did he then desert Buddhism? No, he did not. All precepts emphasize rules and regulations. This is because Ch'an stresses the freedom from all bonds rather than being restrained by forms or concepts, regardless if they are evil or pure. Hence, Master Yang-shan, after denying all such distinctions, stated: "After two or three cups of strong tea, All subtle meanings exist alongside the hoe." This implies that a real Ch'an master never strays from the middle path to either extreme, which is the true practice.


(Source: Hsing Yun's Ch'an Talk, Book 3)