‘A monk asked Qingyuan, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from India?”Qingyuan said, “It’s just like this!”The monk asked further, “What do you have to teach these days?”Qingyuan said, “Come closer.”The monk moved closer.Qingyuan said, “Keep this in mind.” (Shinji Shobogenzo) What did the monk miss here?


‘A monk asked Zhaozhou, Great Master Zhenji, “Does a dog have buddha nature?” Clarify the meaning of this question. A dog is a dog. It is not that this monk was asking whether a dog has buddha nature or not. He was asking whether an iron person still practices the way’ (Shobogenzo Bussho) Where else would […]


‘Yunyan asked a monk, “Where have you been?” The monk replied, “I was just putting on some more incense.” Yunyan asked, “Did you see Buddha?” “Yes, I did.” “Where did you see him?” The monk said, “In the human world.” Yunyan praised him: “You’re just like the ancient Buddhas.”‘ (The Record of Yunyan) Where else would […]

The Blue Cliff Record

‘The master of Lotus Flower Peak cottage held out his staff and said to his disciples, “When, in olden times, a person reached the state of enlightenment, why did they not remain there?” No one could answer, and he replied for them, “Because it is of no use in the course of life.” And again […]


A monk asked, “What is my teacher?” The master said, “Clouds rising out of mountains, streams entering the valley without a sound.” The monk said, “I didn’t ask about them.” The master said, “Though they are your teacher, you don’t recognize them.” (The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu) The monk is expecting his teacher […]


‘The sages and ancient Buddhas all had prescriptions for practice and realization. To those who were trapped in the notion of existence, they gave the medicine of nonexistence; to those who were trapped in the notion of nonexistence, they gave the medicine of existence. They measured out eighty-four thousand medicines to treat the eighty-four thousand […]


A monk asked, “What about it when all the bones are pulverized and there is one everlasting spirit?” The master said, “It’s windy again this morning.” (The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu) To my mind, you can read the answer in two ways – and they are not mutually exclusive. The first would be […]

Shinshu Roberts

‘If we understand our practice as attaining the absolute, we may encounter the problem of thinking our everyday life is of no consequence. We might believe that our effort is to transcend daily life and enter a rarefied and imagined spiritual state. It is imperative that we understand our everyday life as being-time’s complete expression. […]


‘Deshan said to the monks, “As soon as you ask, you have erred. If you don’t ask, you’re also wrong.” A monk came forward and bowed. Deshan struck him. The monk said, “I just bowed. Why did you hit me?” Deshan said, “What use would it be to wait until you opened your mouth?”‘ (Zen’s Chinese […]


‘There is a story that in former times a Zen monk lived alone in a cottage. Above his door he wrote the word “mind.” Above his window he wrote the word “mind,” and on his wall he wrote the word, “mind.” Zen master Fayan said, “Above his door he should have written, ‘door.’ Above his […]