‘Seventeen monks, traveling in search of enlightenment, came to visit the famous teacher Master Yangshan Huiji. Before climbing the mountain to see him, they stayed night in the temple guesthouse, and that evening they discussed the Sixth Patriarch’s koan: “What moves is not the wind nor the banner, but your mind.”
The nun Miaoxin was director of the guesthouse, a responsibility that had been given to her by Yangshan. She overheard the monks’ conversation, and said to her attendants, “What a shame that these seventeen blind donkeys have worn out so many pairs of straw sandals on their pilgrimages without even getting close to the Dharma.”
One of the nuns told the monks what Miaoxin had said. The monks were humbled. They were sincere in their search for enlightenment, and so they did not dismiss Miaoxin’s criticism as the impertinence of a woman. Instead they bowed respectfully and approached her.
Miaoxin said, “What moves is not the wind, nor the banner, nor your mind.”
All seventeen monks immediately awakened. They became Miaoxin’s disciples and returned home without climbing the mountain to meet Yangshan.’ (The Hidden Lamp)
From Grace Schireson’s commentary: ‘She was unimpressed by their rehash of someone else’s insight, just as we might be bored by the Monday morning quarterbacking from spectators with no skin in the game. Why were these monks rehashing a centuries-old game? The real game is alive; it is not a discussion from the sidelines. Miaoxin had her own moves. She didn’t need to rehash the Sixth Ancestor’s, and she had the courage to enter the field.’
Years ago at Tassajara, one of Grace’s students recounted a teaching she had just received from Grace – it also contained a football analogy, and was ferociously alive; it became a great learning for me also.
I smile each time I remember these stories…