Originally So Close

“This Way is originally so close.”

Originally So Close
Dragon Head Kannon by Mayumi Oda

How can a person wake up to this closeness?

Here's an old story with some piercing advice:

Fan, the wife of a high mister, had the Person-of-the-Way name, Jishou (“Peaceful Longevity”). She practiced in Chengdou with Foguo (aka, Yuanwu Keqin, Japanese, Engo Kokugon, 1063–1135). Foguo taught her to inquire into “What is not mind, not Buddha, not a thing?” And said, “You won’t get it by dropping words, you won’t get it by opening your mouth. Look at it while coming, look at it while going. Without entering the head, illuminate sadness and distress.” Jishou then asked Foguo, “Besides this, what skillful means do you have for me so that I can understand?” Foguo said, "There is this singular skillful means: 'What is not mind, not Buddha, not a thing?'” Jishou then awakened and said, “This Way is originally so close.”

What stands out from this?

First, 900 years ago, nonstandard folks ("nonstandard," that is, for the male monastic establishment), in this case, householders who were female, were practicing and awakening.

Second, the koan method shared by Fogou is very much like what you might receive from any good koan teacher today: You won't get it by shutting up. You won't get it by blathering away. Just be it in coming and going. Any interpretation will not due. Cognitive reframing in the midst of sadness and distress won't due - awaken right there - this too is not mind, not Buddha, not a thing. But what is it?

Third, and this applies especially to those working on koans (with a koan teacher, of course), the instruction you've already been given is probably sufficient. It's often just greedy and ungrateful mind, tangled in self-clinging, that grasps for one more precious piece of advice - one after another after another.

Foguo wisely gives Jishou no mind, no Buddha, no thing.

“This Way is originally so close.”

By the way, if you are looking at our Vine of Obstacles Zen site without a subscription, you'll see posts for "Members Only" and "Paid-Members Only." Members are free subscribers - so if you subscribe, all those posts will then be open to you as well. You are also welcome, of course, to become a paid subscriber and support our work with your donations.