Li Ao, a government official of Langchou during the T'ang dynasty, greatly respected the virtuesof Ch'an Master Yao-shan Wei-yen.

One day, Li Ao went to visit the Master. When he arrived, the Master was reading under a tree. Although the Master knew that Li Ao had come, he had no intention of getting up to greet him. When his attendant announced the arrival of Li Ao, Master Wei-yen ignored him and continued reading.

Li Ao was irritated and said testily, "What I see here is not as great as what I have heard." He turned around and prepared to leave.

Coldly, Master Wei-hen replied, "Why do you value what you hear and disdain what you see?"

Li Ao was moved by what the Master had just said. Turning around, he apologized and asked, "What is the Buddha's teaching?"

Master Wei-yen pointed upward, then downward, and asked, "Do you understand?"

Li Ao shook his head and said, "No."

Wei-yen said, "The cloud in the blue sky and the water in the jar."

Li Ao was pleased with this response. He bowed and recited the following verse:

His physical body was like that of a crane,
Reading sutras under thousands of pines;
When I went to inquire about the Buddhist teaching,
He said, 'The cloud in the blue sky and the water in the jar.'


Today, when people are being introduced to others for the first time, they often say, "I have heard about you for a long time." At the same time, they might be thinking to themselves, "There is really nothing special about this person." This implies "valuing the ears and disdaining the eyes," which is typical of human nature. Because Li Ao was a high-ranking official and a Confucian scholar, he was very arrogant. The coldness that Master Yao-shan displayed was humiliating to him, which simply depicted the difference between the state of mind of a Ch'an adept and that of a Confucian scholar.

(Source: Hsing Yun's Ch'an Talk, Book 2)