Each single rule that the assembly practicing in a Seon cloister must keep and practice is made clear in the Chanyuan qinggui. The first person in Seon School history to have opened a specialist Seon practice monastery was Baizhang Huaihai (749-814) and he made the Chanyuan qinggui for it. Therefore these pure regulations are called the Baizhang qinggui. However, that Baizhang qinggui is currently lost, but instead the Chanmen guishi written by Yang Yi remains, and so we can see one aspect of those pure regulations. They are also called the Guqinggui (Old Pure Regulations).
The Chanmen guishi states as follows concerning the guidance of the assembly by the elders of the time and the role played by the masters in the lineage then:
All the assembly of the monastery question in the morning and must gather in the evening. When the elders go up the Dharma-hall and lecture, the assembly involved in livelihood etcetera, and the practitioner assembly all line up and be seated, and lend their ears and must listen to that Seon sermon. The guest and the host who question and reply, and dig out the tenets of the lineage all indicate that they live according to the Dharma. (Chanmen guishi)
When Seon monasteries were first made in China, the Master in the lineage (josil; at that time, the abbot or the elders), had the Seon monks undertake the minor (individual) consultation lectures morning and night, and at fixed times they went up to the hall and gave lectures. In this way, while conducting the lectures, the master in the lineage accomplishes the Seon dialogue and the promotion of the Dharma, and through this process examines each and every person’s study.
The form of the question
So then, does the master of the lineage when lecturing give permission for questions? The content of the lecture and its form is not fixed. Even further, the person who gives the sermon in revealing his own vivid Seon opportunity is not limited to any form. Because the master is free in showing the Dharma, the students also do not need to be restricted by form. When he meets with a student who candidly reveals his own Seon opportunity, the master rather can dynamically develop his own teaching.
For the master, although the lecture is the place where he reveals the scenery of the original location of a proper lineage master that matches the student’s ability, for the students it is also where his study is examined and the dialogue in which the seal of approval is received. Therefore there is a need to actively question the master. But there are points of caution.
First, one must question in conformity with the rules.
Second, one must ask in conformity with the time.
Third, one must achieve one’s own genuine interpretations.