View Full Version : BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 29

04-12-2013, 03:04 PM
Hi all!
I have the pleasure of muddling up Fuketsu's Iron Ox with you all.
Not sure what an iron ox is exactly, but then I am a lot like the axe man :)

In this case Fuketsu says his bit and Rohi steps up to the plate and says, yeah I get it! In his shoes I can see how that would seem to make sense, but if you are "ready for the seal" then you already have it - bringing forth to see it, its gone. Saying nothing, its gone.

So Fuketsu says his very direct bit to Rohi:

Used to as I am to scouring the ocean and catching whales, I regret that instead, there's a frog floundering in the mud.

an invitation for Rohi to "put his money where his mouth is" How could he have possible got out of the mud he jumped into?

Rohi pauses and the seal vanishes, in that moment between Fuketsu's statement and Rohi's pause there was the mark.
Fuketsu encourages Rohi to respond, a pause and the iron ox is vapourized. (but the stick and whisk seem to come to life!)

So the governor thinks he's got it and says as much and when asked to proceed further, he loses balance and drops.

In the modern example The manager does what ever is needed, when ever to keep things going smoothly with out concern of above or below them keeping things going. When the axe drops only then, does the upper management realize her function.

There is fine line here to me, perhaps the manager could have kept her job, in the modern example and spared the failure of projects negatively impacting clients, staff and the company by "being of rank" once in a while?
Balancing the absolute, being fluid and transparent, with the relative, she is the "boss" for that section helping out where needed but occasionally allowing folks to flounder for their greater benefit.

The modern example speaks volumes to me as this is my job. In my line of work I do exactly as she does, I help where ever I am needed, how ever. I wouldn't ask folks to do something I wouldn't myself do and I demonstrate that by jumping in when ever, where ever with out being asked. That said, in doing that, it sometimes leads others to not meet their full potential and they slack a bit, knowing I will pick it up, or my own duties get pushed aside and my upper management becomes displeased.

I was given some wise advice in that, sometimes its best to let something fail then to constantly come to aid. If we do not let it fail, how will we know where the problem lies and how to best fix it.

Anywho, I couldn't really come up with questions, so I ask all of us to reflect on a couple of things;

In Rohi's shoes how would you have answered?

Myself, I would be still be getting whacks from the whisk and the stick.

So When you are ready for the seal, will it leave a band for everyone to see and admire or will it be hidden from everyone, including yourself?


04-13-2013, 02:19 AM
I feel like I just read a zen version of Alice in Wonderland (not you, Shohei), or maybe it's the Wizard of Oz, but instead of lions and tigers and bears we got whales, frogs, and oxen.

In grad school once a long time ago I was supposed to lead a group of college students and younger students with disabilities in an adaptive PE class. I was a whirling dervish for about an hour, working as hard as I could doing everything I could everywhere I could to help out and make it a success for all. At the end of it all I felt really good about how hard I had worked and the results that I felt I got within my group. Right after, all us grad students had a debriefing with our professor where he rated us on our effectiveness. He gave me a zero ranking! ZERO. He said I was supposed to be supervising, not jumping all over the place and demonstrating. I felt humiliated, though I did learn a lesson, a lesson I am not sure I agree with to this day. But anyway, just call me Rohi.

On the flip side, I used to be really bad about not suffering people I considered fools. So if some Rohi came up and said, "I got the answer!" and proceeded to completely clam up when challenged (or do things completely different/wrong from what I expected), I would be out with the whisk of words in a flash. These days, I am much more patient, though sometimes it is a struggle with certain students. But don't call me Fuketsu.

04-14-2013, 06:22 PM
Thanks for this Shohei. I too liked the modern analogy in the commentary by Shishin Wick and it wasn't until now that I realised it was very similar to Herman Hesse's Journey to the East. There are so many invisible people working like this, just doing what needs to be done. Not realising you are doing it is the place to be!
As for my reaction.... well I am slow to get things and would hesitate, it's been a lifelong issue, spontaneity! I get beat by the moment more often than not, but I am not Rohi, I do not claim to, not need or to have the mind-seal. No iron ox here, just an ox plodding through the mud!

04-15-2013, 11:10 PM
Rohi doesn't really need an answer. But he needed to do something like grab that wisk and stick it where the sun don't shine.

For me fuketsu was teaching that being caught up in all your ideas of this and that gets in the way of spontaneously acting in the present circumstances

Am not ready often, but do practice to be ready.

04-18-2013, 10:32 PM
ok I have to re-read this koan again before I can completely answer. lol But I think a good manager allows their subordinates to work and have the freedom to fail. They are there to support and help if necessary, but they have to give their employees space to roam on their own a bit as well. Failing is sometimes a good way to learn.



04-18-2013, 10:42 PM
Read it.... Liked the manager reference ;-)... Not much to say about this one. Think I'll reread it and "non-think"about it some more.


04-19-2013, 06:37 AM
Hello Shohei,

those are great questions. I need to think-non-think a bit longer about them.


Hans Chudo Mongen

04-19-2013, 11:13 AM
Hi guys [wave]

Great words there Sohei! This case 29 realy is a confusing one! Thanks for your guiding words ad thoughts on it. Here are my answers ( off key as usual :D)

In Rohi's shoes how would you have answered?

Whales live in the ocean but are not aware of it. Frogs live in the mud and are not aware of it.
Human beeings however can awaken.
Seals are made for stamping. Is there a choice?
Then I would grab the whisk from Fuketsu and immediately offer it back to him, in gassho holding it out above my head in front of me with both hands.

So When you are ready for the seal, will it leave a band for everyone to see and admire or will it be hidden from everyone, including yourself?

Ask the seal. Is it aware of the stamp it leaves? If you are ready for the seal, it’s not the seal that makes the difference. If you are ready ,there is no hiding it because whatever you do or say, it will leave an impression for all to see.



04-20-2013, 03:52 PM
I've been thinking about these questions for a while, and I haven't known how to respond because I was trying to answer with information I've heard or read; I wasn't trying to answer from my own experience, my own life. So I was separating myself from this and establishing a barrier.

I don't know what will happen when or if I ever get the seal. I've only heard or read about Dharma transmission, so I'd be speculating. But I can tell you an answer to this without speculating.

I'm a software engineer in information security. I've been doing some level of development and design for about 15 years, but I've really gotten deeply involved into coding and security within the last 7 or so. I needed the first 8 to prepare me so I was ready to get into deeper understanding.

You'll see books on the shelves like how to learn SQL, Perl, Python, Java, Javascript, etc. in a week or 10 days. Bullshit. Those can be a great start but after you read one of those, it's like having a drawing of a house and saying you are a carpenter. It's very different. There is another article online entitled: How to Learn Programming in 10 years by Peter Norvig. That's more like it.

Just like zen if you think about it in terms of how long it will take it's impossible, but everyday you program, you learn, you fail, you bounce back, you think you've got it, you realize you don't, and in that realization the magic happens.

When I think I've gotten it, that's when I miss it. I'm 37 years old, so I'm not a spring chicken, but I still fall into that trap. Sometimes I read a brilliant post by one of my fellow Treeleafers or teachers: Jundo/Taigu, and think yeah that's it. Nope it's not.. haahhaah Zen is life. It's not fixed. That fixation with fixing an idea of life is bullshit, zombie zen.

But still I'm going to tell you when I first started programming, just like Rohi, I wanted to prove myself, so I'd make sure my superiors knew I knew my shit, that I did this on my own. What a fool I was, and still can be. I stand on the shoulders of giants and, if I'm lucky, some day people will stand on my shoulders, learn from me to become better or do better.

When I started formulating my response to this, it was like I was struck by lightning and understood. What is really interesting is the more I started speaking or thinking from my Software engineering background, the more I realized the parallels to Buddhism. Pick one practice. I was just listening to Taigu's talk on Genjokoan (Part 10) this morning. Pick one software language, and learn it intimately. When you do you will know the others. Sure the syntax differs, but when you learn the principles and know how to navigate the seas, it's just syntax.. you have realization. But when you stop designing and developing your skills wane. Just the same, stick to one practice. Don't shop around. Practice zazen regularly. Practice is enlightenment, nothing to gain, nothing to get.

Testing is 85% of software development in my humble opinion. Just like with zen, test and verify your practice. Do what works, but don't throw out something until you've settled into it. You can't throw out the books and letters and sutras until you've lived them and know if they are valid.

Finally, error handling is how I can tell who is an experienced developer. Assuming that because something worked 1 or 2 times does not mean it always will. There are causes and conditions you cannot fathom from your tiny perspective, so you better make sure you implement robust error handling and articulate messaging. This allows errors to be identified and adjusted for and resolved in the future. Just like zazen. Sit zazen on a shitty day. Live on a shitty day. Can you bounce back and learn from it, or do you grasp for what you want and ignore reality continuing the cycle of samsara

Anyway, I have to get going.



04-20-2013, 06:35 PM
Wonderful post Risho,

As a PHP programmer I can relate to what you are saying both in development of an application through testing and error analysis and the development of one's self through zazen and life practice ... Thank you sharing that. :)


04-21-2013, 08:55 AM
Thank you Shohei,

Hi all!
... but then I am a lot like the axe man :)

You are not alone. Not only I'm like the axe man too, on top of that I run around like a mad chicken. From Shihin's commentary this one stood out for me:

"We usually get trapped in our ideas how things should be and we prevent ourselves from reacting spontaneously and naturally to each situation as it arises"

I'm not only trapped, I put much effort into making the future as I expect it to, and fear it would be different. I cannot reply to Fuketsu any better than Rohi; I just know I wouldn't have stepped forward in the first place :)
Gassho and thank you to everyone contributing

04-21-2013, 09:47 PM
In Rohi's shoes how would you have answered?

Why stepping forward in the first place?
I guess I would have just kept quiet.

So When you are ready for the seal, will it leave a band for everyone to see and admire or will it be hidden from everyone, including yourself?

Hidden. A seal is an addition that can turn into an obstacle.
Or perhaps it would be even better to don't receive the seal in the first place - there is nothing to be displayed after all.

Thanks for presenting this case, Shohei!



04-21-2013, 09:59 PM
I'm gonna go literal here on the seal. Is it really perfect? Don't we adjust depending on our conditioning just like wax doesn't always set the same way? If I seal a hundred times, or whatever number, I doubt I get the exact same seal. Variance happens, so I feel confident in the lineage of seals, just the same yet different. And before the seal is seen or hidden, I need to first become worthy, so I abstain from the question.

04-23-2013, 11:23 PM
Wiser minds than mine have weighed in. I keep coming back to the preface to the assembly. I play a lot of chess, and I love the history of the game. I'm new to Koans, so please do tell me if I'm out of place. ha.

The thing that stuck with me coming to it from that perspective is that there weren't official time limits until the 19th century. More or less, one could take however long they needed to make a move. And the rules for draws and resigning weren't cemented until later. To play a long game wasn't necessarily frowned upon, however to play a long game meant running the risk of over thinking. In the preface I was caught with an image of someone pinned at a disadvantage, and staring at the board trying to find the solution. To move without intuition, or to think about an arrangement of the board until you've lost sight of what you would have done, seems relevant to me. In the pause to think, Rohi loses the game.

"When dwelling in a demon's cave, and holding fast to a deadly snake's head, is there any chance of transformation?"

When I read that I think of a player down a major piece, against an extremely competent opponent, at risk of losing another major piece and losing the game. In spite of knowing the rules of the game, the player has been trapped in a situation they can't back out of, like the frog in the mud. What is the player, or the frog, supposed to do to get free? However, the player has been staring at the board for too long. Like Rohi, he has failed to act. The axe handle has rotted. It can no longer be swung. The right move has come to mind and been dismissed, or pinned by other thoughts. So the player glares at the board paralyzed.

The line, "If you don't cut off when you should cut off, you invite disorder," makes me think the player over thought and by not making a decisive move has opened the board to a long and laborious endgame.

Essentially, by not seeing the board for what it is, and responding with one's true nature, the game is now a mess.

By constantly considering the board, and suppressing one's own nature, you fail to define yourself and the game. The game becomes a mash of forced moved and defensive measures that are all representations of a player who will neither think nor act outside a structure defined by his/her opponent. Maybe that's the similarity with the modern manager. Only reacting or doing in situations dictated by others. Not sure though...

Which doesn't make for a very good game. I wish I had more to add, but though I've read this many times over a few days, that's all that really comes to me. Myoku describes my thoughts overall the best.

And thus ends my first thoughts on a Koan I've said out loud. Like Rohi, I'm quite uncertain.


04-23-2013, 11:52 PM
Nice, Mc. I also enjoy chess. Have you heard the song, "Your Move," by Yes? gassho1

04-24-2013, 01:04 AM
Thanks Amelia. I had, but I just gave it a serious listen for the first time. And I can't help but read the lyrics like another koan.

Just remember that the goal
'Sfor us to capture all we want, anywhere,
Yea, yea, yea.
Don't surround yourself with yourself,
Move on back two squares,
Send an Instant Karma to me,
Initial it with loving care
Don't surround

I suppose surrounding yourself with yourself in the context could be wrapping yourself in thoughts and second guessing. And an "us," that's defined by goals and action, and a "you," that's defined in relation. Does strike me as a little relevant.


04-25-2013, 04:06 AM
That's why I love that song. [happy]

04-25-2013, 04:27 AM
Nothing of value to add; I admit I was a bit lost in this case, and it bears more consideration on my part.


05-07-2013, 08:55 PM
Shohei's manager example was excellent in helping me get a real feel for this koan in everyday life. These koans, of course are never answered, and perhaps we make peace with them for a short time, only to be knocked off in a different direction...anyway..that's my experience. In short, parenting comes to my mind as a perfect application of this koan, which we attempt to resolve again and again.


05-08-2013, 01:32 PM
This koan (as so many) is pretty impenetrable for me without Shishin's commentary. I like the example of the middle manager, though. A teacher of mine was once asked what an enlightened person would look like and he said that they would act with such ease and lack of drama that no one would really pay them any attention. The same seemed to be true of her and is a good model for how to live, just doing what needs to be done without drama or expectation of reward.

As regards the seal, I was talking to Fugen about ordination at Sunday's tea party and observed that some people act differently after ordination as if they are trying to fit into the role. After a year or so they relax and are just themselves but it is expected to make a difference (and maybe does in a different way) so they act to reflect that. Jundo said recently that precepts are mostly taken when you are living that way anyway and it is an acknowledgement of that rather than a fundamental change. I imagine that ordination and the seal are similar.


05-09-2013, 01:32 AM
Thanks, Shohei. I think if you asked my staff what I do, they'd say "hmmm I'm not sure" lol. Even though I feel like I work tirelessly, I'm not a limelight kind of guy--don't advertise myself. So I can relate to the manager example, too.

And thank you Risho. I always love to read your posts--you always put such time and energy into them. Plus I work in IT as well so feel the Nerd Kinship :D
Gassho, Kaishin

05-12-2013, 12:48 AM
Thank you Kaishin :) Nerds Rule. hahahhahah