‘A monk asked Fen-yang, “If there is no bit of cloud in the sky for ten thousand miles, what do you say about it?” “I would punish the sky with my stick, ” Fen-yang replied. “Why do you blame the sky?” the monk persisted. “Because,” answered Fen-yang “there is no rain when we should have it and there is no fair weather when we should have it. ”’ (The Iron Flute)
Nyogen Senzaki’s commentary: A Zen monk punishes everything with his big stick; even Buddha and the patriarchs cannot escape that blow of Zen. His stick is the handle by which he can shake the whole universe. If there were to arise any disturbance in the perfect network of the universe, Fen-yang was ready to set things right with his stick. The monk was merely a dreamer expecting to live in uninterrupted bliss while he worshipped a white-washed, dummy Buddha. Fen-yang’s first answer was really a warning to the monk, but when he saw the monk did not understand, he simplified his answer as one might to a small child.
My commentary: Perhaps we can think of this as a koan for California.