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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 92

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 92

    Today we spin with Case 92 - Ummon's One Treasure.

    This is an excellent example of how most Koans use all manner of references to other old Zen stories, traditional poetic images and legends, jokes and wordplay in Chinese and the like to allude indirectly to some Buddhist teaching or experience which loses power if expressed too directly. The problem is, for modern people, the Koans become doubly mysterious and hard to understand when we are not familiar with the other old Zen stories, poetic images and legends, and cannot follow the puns in Chinese!

    Sure, Koans are weird, with lots of strange imagery, but so is a video like this: Imagine some folks 1000 years in the future trying to figure out what these two bozos in face paint represent, and why they are standing like giants next to the pyramids and flying through space. Notice all the mixed perspectives in this video, with usually big things like the moon or elephants appearing small, and small things huge, often flying around and merging together in some bright light, as in today's Koan (here's the cleaned up version) ...


    I read some commentaries by some respected Japanese Zen Roshis regarding today's Koan, and even they seem a bit tongue tied in trying to explain this one. However, let me see if I might offer a way in. Let's begin with the Main Case:

    Most commentators seems to agree that the "treasure" is your "True Self" which dwells in the mountainous shape (your human body, which looks like a mountain, perhaps when seated in zazen), which is locate right here in the universe, right where you are, where the sky meets the earth.

    The next line is confusing to some, but I think it means something like this: Usually we think we head to a temple by walking under its massive triple gate (see image below), and shine a light to see a Buddha statue or other image sitting some meters away inside a Buddha Hall. However, when all separation drops away, and the gap of one's own self and Buddha burns up, it is as if Buddha, the triple gate and whole temple, us too, rest right on top of the tip of the torch flame and all is illuminated! Something like that.


    The "Preface to the Assembly" alludes to two traditional stories: First, Master Bokushu used to call worthless and dull students as "old drills," so when that drill is turned around (which is how it is sometimes translated, rather than "pulling forth"), it instead becomes a sharp, powerful, diamond-like and piercing tool. Next, Seppo's "poison snake" refers to an old story in which he referred to another teacher who could kill a student's ego and trigger enlightenment as like a deadly and powerful "poison snake." Before that, the first sentence just refers to how incredibly powerful and magical are the words of the story we are about to read (like attaining a great samadhi state that feels otherworldly, and reciting a dharani which are words of magical effect). In other words, I think that the Preface is just saying in a very imaginative way that the story we are about to read in the main text of the Koan is really magical and powerful, piercing, ego destroying and enlightening. Something like that.

    The Appreciatory Verse also contains much imagery. Some commentators take the first sentence, about "reverberations, disliking embellishments" as meaning something like "boy, this Koan really resonates, and cuts right to the chase, short and sweet." The next line, about "returning, where is your life," might mean something like, "now that you have rediscovered and returned to one's True Self, where are you now, where does that put you?"

    The next lines reference two old stories about the compressing of time and space. Ranka is like a Chinese "Rip Van Winkle" character, who awakes to find that hundreds of years have passed while he was in a trance, and his road home has become overgrown and vanished. In another story, Koko is a fellow who is able to shrink down so small that he can build his house inside a melon or gourd. Likewise, in the Main Case of the Koan, all distance, size and time pour into the illumination of that torch and the True Self.

    Commentators seem to be guessing more about the last few lines: Some commentators take the river and tree (sometimes translated as moon in the sky) as one source which is broken into many images when reflected in the ripples of a flowing stream ... thus, the many is just the one, just as everything pours into that one torch. White reed flowers in white snow may also represent differences between things vanishing. The fish don't get "caught," and don't get trapped on some fisherman's hook, free and resting, while the fisherman finally gives up his pursuit and, content, returns home (to his True Home) whistling a tune. Maybe something like that?

    HOMEWORK: Picture yourself walking into some vast place or space, like the Grand Canyon or downtown Manhattan. Picture yourself looking around at the scenery, spreading to the horizon, the sky overhead. Maybe include the sky overhead, even the most distant stars in space. Now, feel the whole thing shrink and pour completely into your heart where it is held, without any problem. Suddenly, rather then being small amid vastness, you are vast and all the vast things are within you. In fact, nothing can be measured. How's that feel? That's a real magic, miracle power.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-28-2021 at 12:24 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.
    E84I - JAJ

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Today we spin with Case 92 - Ummon's One Treasure.

    HOMEWORK: Picture yourself walking into some vast place or space, like the Grand Canyon or downtown Manhattan. Picture yourself looking around at the scenery, spreading to the horizon, the sky overhead. Maybe include the sky overhead, even the most distant stars in space. Now, feel the whole thing shrink and pour completely into your heart where it is held, without any problem. Suddenly, rather then being small amid vastness, you are vast and all the vast things are within you. In fact, nothing can be measured. How's that feel? That's a real magic, miracle power.

    Gassho, J

    STLah


    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  4. #4
    Some koans speak to me. This one didnít. I appreciated your commentary Jundo.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

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