Roasting The Buddha

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Tianran warming his private parts

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Roasting The Buddha
        Sengai Gibbon 1750-1837

Intense frigid cold winds,
Need fuel for the hearth.
Call this roasting the Buddha?!
        Your eyebrows 
                and beard
                        will be singed off!
Shāo Fó
Xiānyá Yìfàn 1750-1837

Hán gāo fēng liè
Yí yōng huǒlú
Ruòyán shāo Fó
Duòluò méixū
Translator: Dongbo 東波

Having one's beard fall off was a kind of spirtual retribution.

This brush painting by Sengai is about the story of the Chan monk 天然 739-824, a disciple of 石頭 Shitou. One frigid cold winter evening Tianran was staying at a temple in Changan. Chattering with cold he took one of the wooden Buddha images from the altar and burned it in the stove to warm his backside. When the temple director saw this he was shocked and exclaimed,

'How can you do such an onerous thing?'

Tianran replied, 'I'm collecting sarira from the Buddha image's ashes'.

'How stupid to think you can get sarira from a statue!, retorted the monk.

'Then please hand me another, it's a cold night', replied Tanxia.

See the book Sengai, The Zan Master, by Daisetz T Suzuki, New York Graphic Society, 1971

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