The Book of Serenity

Dizang asked Fayan, “Where are you going?”
Fayan said, “Around on pilgrimage.”
Dizang said, “What is the purpose of pilgrimage?”
Fayan said, “I don’t know.”
Dizang said, “Not knowing is most intimate.” (Case 20)

Often when I am teaching, I am asked about the way that zen discourages any idea of attainment – as in the words of Suzuki Roshi yesterday. How can we move through the world without goals? My answer is to draw the distinction between a goal and an intention – usually with gestures. A goal is over there; an intention starts right here. We need the intention to get us moving in a particular direction, but perhaps on the way to our goal, circumstances change, our desires change, the sense of our goal changes. As Blanche puts it, if you are driving towards a mountain, it is better to focus on the road rather than the mountain.
Typically a pilgrim would have a sense of where they wanted to go and why they wanted to undertake the endeavour. But this is already putting things in boxes (a phrase I may overuse in teaching), and limiting our possibilities. Setting out without knowing means that we are ready for anything to happen, and when it does, to meet it with equanimity and flexibility rather than getting stuck on how this affects us and our carefully planned route to the goal.

Koans will be the focus of the next workshop at Divinitree in Santa Cruz, on April 23rd. You could set an intention to come. I may talk about this koan, who can say?

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