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Is investigating a topic (参话头) a way for immediate enlightenment?
In Chan Buddhism, investigating a topic (参话头) is very popular practice and many many practitioners devote much their efforts in a hope to gain an immediate enlightenment after long time contemplation upon a topic. For an instance, one part may set out to ask “Does a dog have the nature of Buddha?” “Is your mind round or square?” “where are you before your birth?”To seek a breakthrough many worthy men wasted all their life time pursuing a sudden understanding or a way out from such cocooned state. So, we call it a delusion due to the self-sealing by own mind. To have mind engender mind, to have mind take charge of mind, to have mind entangle mind, how could it be possible to have a way out leading to illumination from the pitch black and hotness?

Therefore, to waste all the thoughts and ideas and reasoning and thinking power is similar to lay shattered into thousands of fragments of gold. Can you deny this is not an undertaking carried out within a devil cave?

Here I do not mean investigating a topic (参话头) is a pitfall at all. On the contrary, I mean people just fall short of using it in a correct way! -- take a wrong direction!

To better understand the situation we attach below one part of chapter 65 of Journey to West for reference:

NOTES: Here bronze cymbals consist of two pieces of cymbal, metaphorically indicating upper lip and lower lip (very interesting). Once a pair of bronze cymbals came out of the sky to join together with a mighty crash, whatever people either with brilliant wisdom or lower intelligence, who could be possible to escape its magic power?

Journey to West

Chapter 65
A Demon Creates a False Thunder Peak
All Four Pilgrims Meet with Disaster

Letting go of the horse and putting down the luggage he shouted as he brandished his cudgel, "Evil beasts! What a nerve! How dare you try to ruin the Buddha's good name by pretending to be him! Stay where you are!" He raised his cudgel in both hands and was just about to strike when a pair of bronze cymbals came out of the sky to join together with a mighty crash, enclosing him completely from head to toe. Pig and Friar Sand grabbed desperately for their rake and staff, only to be so closely surrounded by the arhats, protectors, holy monks and lay brothers that they could not move. They and Sanzang too were all captured and roped up tightly.

Now the Buddha on the lotus throne was a demon king and all the arhats and others his little devils. They now put off their Buddha disguises, so that they looked once more like the evil creatures they really were, and carried the three of them round to the back to be kept under guard while Monkey was sealed inside the cymbals, never to be released. The cymbals were then set on a pedestal, and here he was to be turned to pus and blood within three days and nights, after which the other three were to be steamed in an iron steamer and eaten.

Inside the cymbals Monkey found it pitch black and so hot that he was soon pouring with sweat. Push and shove though he might, there was no way he could get out, and when in desperation he hit out wildly all around with his iron cudgel he could not move the cymbals by even a fraction of an inch. Then he made a hand−spell that made him ten thousand feet tall; the cymbals grew with him. There was not a crack anywhere through which a chink of light could get in. He made another hand−spell to make himself smaller and shrank till he was as tiny as a mustard−seed. The cymbals shrank with him, and still there was no hole.

He blew a magic breath on the iron cudgel, said, "Change!" and made it into a flagpole with which to prop the cymbals up. Then he pulled two of the longer hairs from the back of his head, blew on them, said, "Change!" and turned them into a five−part drill with a plum−blossom shaped bit which he turned a thousand times or more. There was a rasping noise but the drill made no impression.

By now he was feeling desperate, so he made another hand spell and recited the words, "Om ram peaceful dharma world; eternal keen purity of the heavenly unity."

This compelled the Five Protectors, the Six Dings, the Six Jias and the Eighteen Guardians of the Faith to gather round the cymbals and say, "Great Sage, we are all protecting your master and keeping the demons from harming him, so why do you call us here?"

"If he dies it serves him right for ignoring my advice," Monkey replied. "You lot had better find some magic to get these cymbals open at once and have me out of here so I can decide what to do. It's completely dark in here, I'm feeling very hot, and it's so stuffy it'll kill me." The gods all tried to lift the cymbals, but as before it was impossible to move them by even a fraction of an inch.

"Yes," said Monkey. They used their spears, swords, sabers and battle−axes to try to lever, prise, lift, and force it open, but despite all their efforts the third watch came and still they had failed to make the slightest impression on them. It was as if the cymbals had been cast as a single whole. Not a chink of light could Monkey see from inside, no matter how hard he looked and crawled and rolled all around.

Then the Metal Dragon of the constellation Gullet said, "Don't get impatient, Great Sage. This must be an As−You−Will treasure and I'm sure it can be changed. You feel where the cymbals join from the inside. Once I get my horn between them you can turn yourself into something and get out where I've loosened them." Monkey followed this suggestion and felt frantically around inside. Meanwhile the constellation made himself so small that his horn was no bigger than the point of a needle. He pushed hard with it where the two cymbals joined, and by exerting tremendous pressure he managed to penetrate inside.

He then gave himself a magic body by saying, "Grow! Grow! Grow!" The horn became as thick as a rice−bowl, but the cymbals were more like creatures of skin and flesh than objects cast from metal: they kept their close bite on the Metal Dragon of Gullet's horn, and not a crack appeared anywhere around.

Monkey then crawled out of the hole in the horn again, resumed his own appearance, raised his cudgel and smashed the cymbals apart with a tremendous noise like a copper mountain collapsing. The Buddhist instruments now lay shattered into thousands of fragments of gold. This gave the Twenty−eight Constellations a terrible fright and made the Protectors' hair stand on end. All the devils woke up, and as the demon king was shocked out of his sleep he jumped up, pulled on his clothes and had the drums beaten to muster all the demons with their weapons. By now it was nearly dawn and they all gathered round the throne. On seeing Monkey and the constellations standing in a ring round the fragments of the golden cymbals the demon king went pale from shock and ordered his underlings to shut the front gates and not let them escape.
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