Liu Tiemo Iron Grinder

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Liu Tiemo (n.d.) was a disciple of Guishan Lingyou. Little is known of the details of her life. After receiving the Dharma seal from Guishan, Liu lived a few miles away from him and would periodically come to visit. She taught Zen in a style described as "precipitously awesome and dangerous." Her ability to test the true mettle of Zen adepts brought her the name "Iron Grinder."

Aside from her prominent appearances in cases sixty of the Book of Serenity and twenty-four of the Blue Cliff Record, there are few other stories of the Iron Grinder in classical records. She is mentioned in an episode of Dharma combat with the truculent Zen master Zihu, and despite her own reputation for ferocity, was not spared one of his characteristic beatings. The following passage is taken from the Guzunsu Yulu (The Record of the Venerable Ancients).107

The leader of a congregation, named "Iron Grinder Liu," came to visit Zen master Zihu.

Zihu said, "I've heard of 'Iron Grinder Liu.' They say you're not easy to contend with. Is that so?"

Iron Grinder said, "Where did you hear that?"

Zihu said, "It's conveyed from left and right."108

Iron Grinder said, "Don't fall down, Master."

Zihu drove her out of the room with blows.

Zen master Fojian [Taiping Huiqin] selected this episode for comment, saying, "Zihu's stick had eyes. He had authority to take the staff in his hands. Beneath Iron Grinder's skin was blood. She let Zihu wield the stick, but though she appeared soft, she had steel-like strength.

"But look at what was said! The enlightened words were 'It's conveyed from left and right.' The motive arose from this. Zihu did not fall down. His body was upright, his appearance unbending."


Jinhua Juzhi (n.d.) was a disciple of Hangzhou Tianlong. He lived and taught in ancient Wuzhou (in modern Zhejiang Province, south of the city of Hangzhou). Details of his life are sketchy. A few facts are provided in the lamp records.

When Jinhua first became the priest of a small temple, a Buddhist nun named Shiji visited him. Wearing her hat and grasping her staff, she walked around him three times and said, "If you can speak, I'll take off my hat."

Three times she did this, but Hangzhou did not reply. She then began to leave.

Hangzhou said, "It's getting late. Why don't you stay here."

"Say the right word and I'll stay."

Again Hangzhou did not reply.

After the nun left, he sighed and said, "Though I inhabit the form of a man, I don't have a man's spirit. It would be better if I left the temple and went traveling, seeking knowledge."

That night a mountain spirit appeared and advised him that he must not leave, for a great bodhisattva would appear in the flesh to teach him the Dhar-ma. Ten days later Master Tianlong came to the temple. Jinhua received him and bowed. Then he told him what had happened previously.

Tianlong simply held up one finger. Jinhua thereupon attained great enlightenment. From that time forward students came from everywhere, but Jinhua merely raised one finger and offered no other teaching.

There was a boy living at Jinhua's temple who, each time he was asked by someone about some matter, held up one finger.

Someone told Jinhua, "Master, the boy also understands the Buddhadharma. Anytime someone asks him something he holds up his finger just like the master."

One day Jinhua concealed a knife in his sleeve and asked the boy, "I heard you understand the essential doctrine. Is that so?"

The boy said, "Yes."

Jinhua then asked him, "What is Buddha?"

The boy then held up one finger. Jinhua grabbed the boy's finger and cut it off with a knife. The boy screamed and ran for the door.

As the boy ran away Jinhua yelled at him. When the boy turned his head Jinhua said, "What is Buddha?"

The boy held up his hand but his finger was gone and there was nothing there. The boy instantly was awakened.

When Jinhua was about to die, he said to the monks, "I attained Tianlong's one-fingered Zen. In my entire life I have not exhausted it." When he finished saying this he passed away. (Changqing said on behalf of the congregation, "Sweets don't satisfy people's hunger." Xuansha said, "If at that time I'd seen it, I would have twisted off the finger." Xuanjue said, "What do you think Xuan-sha's meaning was when he spoke in this manner?" Yunju Ci said, "If Xuansha speaks like this, do you agree or not agree? If you agree, why would you say 'twist off his finger'? If you don't agree, where was Juzhi's mistake?" The first Caoshan (Benji) said, "The position Juzhi carried was crude. What is recognized is one function—one condition. It's all clapping the hands." Xuansha also said, "Do you say Juzhi was enlightened or not? If he was enlightened, how can it be said that the position he carried was crude? If he was not enlightened, then he also said his use of one-fingered Zen was never exhausted. What do you say about Caoshan's meaning?")

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