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The cock crows in the early morning;
Sadly I see as I rise how worn out I am;
I haven't a belt or a shirt.
Just the semblance of a robe.
My loincloth has no seat, my pants no opening--
On my head are three or five pecks of gray ashes.
Originally I intended to practice to help save others;
Who would have suspected that instead I would become a fool!

-- Joshu

Joshu Jushin -- best known by his Japanese name, but called Chao-chou Ts'ung-shen (Wade-Giles) / Zhaozhou (pinyin) in his native Chinese and written 趙州 by both languages -- was one of the great Zen masters of ancient China. He took his monastic name, Chao-chou, from the name of the small town near Beijing where he lived. He is said to have been born in 778 and to have died in 897, giving him an unlikely life span of 119 years. According to the same sources, he only entered monastery life at the ripe age of 61 (or 80), but under the tutalage of Nansen he learned rapidly and eventually became abbot, a position he held for 40 years. He was known for his asceticism but also his kindness: no sharp raps of the stick for his students, just simple actions and language without a single Buddhist cliche.

A monk asked Joshu, "Being on the verge, that point of absolute immediacy -- what is it like?"

Joshu said, "Pissing is a small thing to do, but I have to do it myself."

His fame grew rapidly: five of the 48 koans in The Gateless Gate are attributed to Joshu, as well as twelve of the 100 in the Blue Cliff Records. Probably the best known of these is Joshu's Dog, aka "Does a dog have Buddha nature?".

The definitive English source on Joshu is James Green's The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu (ISBN 15706241430), a collection of all of Joshu's known koans, poems and dialogues, as well as a short biography and a record of his journeys.

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