I still love this dialogue...
http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Sutr ... cumstances
Bhikkhu Fa Da, a native of Hung Zhou, who joined the Order at the early age of seven, used to recite the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra (Lotus of the Good Law Sutra.) When he came to pay homage to the Patriarch, he failed to lower his head to the ground.
For his abbreviated courtesy the Patriarch reproved him, saying, "If you object to lower your head to the ground, would it not be better do away with salutation entirely? There must be something in your mind that makes you so puffed up. Tell me what you do in your daily exercise."
"Recite the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra," replied Fa Da. "I have read the whole text three thousand times."
"Had you grasped the meaning of the Sutra," remarked the Patriarch, "you would not have assumed such a lofty bearing, even if you had read it ten thousand times. Had you grasped it, you would be treading the same Path as mine. What you have accomplished has already made you conceited, and moreover, you do not seem to realize that this is wrong. Listen to my stanza:--
Since the object of ceremony is to curb arrogance
Why did you fail to lower your head to the ground?
'To believe in a self' is the source of sin,
But 'to treat all attainment as void' attains merit incomparable!
The Patriarch then asked for his name, and upon being told that his name was Fa Da (meaning Understanding the Law), he remarked,
"Your name is Fa Da, but you have not yet understood the Law." He concluded by uttering another stanza:--
Your name is Fa Da.
Diligently and steadily you recite the Sutra.
Lip-repetition of the text goes by the pronunciation only,
But he whose mind is enlightened by grasping the meaning is a Bodhisattva indeed!
On account of Pratyaya (conditions producing phenomena) which may be traced to our past lives
I will explain this to you.
If you only believe that Buddha speaks no words,
Then the Lotus will blossom in your mouth.
Having heard this stanza, Fa Da became remorseful and apologized to the Patriarch. He added, "Hereafter, I will be humble and polite on all occasions.
As I do not quite understand the meaning of the Sutra I recite, I am doubtful as to its proper interpretation.
With your profound knowledge and high wisdom, will you kindly give me a short explanation?"
The Patriarch replied, "Fa Da, the Law is quite clear; it is only your mind that is not clear. The Sutra is free from doubtful passages; it is only your mind that makes them doubtful. In reciting the Sutra, do you know its principal object?"
"How can I know, Sir," replied Fa Da, "since I am so dull and stupid? All I know is how to recite it word by word."
Fa Da then said, "If that is so, we have only to know the meaning of the Sutra and there would be no necessity for us to recite it. Is that right, Sir?"
"There is nothing wrong in the Sutra," replied the Patriarch, "so that you should refrain from reciting it. Whether sutra-reciting will enlighten you or not, or benefit you or not, all depends on yourself. He who recites the Sutra with the tongue and puts its teaching into actual practice with his mind 'turns round' the Sutra. He who recites it without putting it into practice is 'turned round' by the Sutra. Listen to my stanza:--
When our mind is under delusion, the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra 'turns us round'.
With an enlightened mind we 'turn round' the Sutra instead.
To recite the Sutra for a considerable time without knowing its principal object
Indicates that you are a stranger to its meaning.
The correct way to recite the Sutra is without holding any arbitrary belief;
Otherwise, it is wrong.
He who is above 'Affirmative' and 'Negative'
Rides permanently in the White Bullock Cart (the Vehicle of Buddha)."
Having heard this stanza, Fa Da was enlightened and moved to tears. "It is quite true," he exclaimed, "that heretofore I was unable to 'turn round' the Sutra. It was rather the Sutra that 'turned' me round."