‘Yunyan asked a monk what he was doing. The monk replied, “I’ve been talking to a rock.” Yunyan said, “Did it nod to you [indicating that it understood you]? When the monk didn’t reply, Yunyan answered for him: “It nodded to you before you even said anything.”‘

Suzuki Roshi

‘Student: I am so grateful to you and Tassajara and Zen Center that I’d like to study Zen. What should I do first? Suzuki Roshi: You should do something in right time in the right way. Try to keep up with our practice.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

There is really nothing to add. This is the same as Joshu’s bowl.


‘Dizang saw a monastic coming and held up a whisk.
The monastic bowed.
Dizang said, “What did you see that made you bow?”
The monastic said, “I thanked you for your instruction.”
Dizang hit the monastic and said, “You saw me hold up the whisk and thanked me. Why don’t you thank me when you see me sweep the ground every day?”‘ (Shinji Shobogenzo)


‘Yunmen once lived in a temple called the Chapel of Holy Trees. One morning a government official called on him and asked, “Are your holy fruits well-ripened now?” “None of them was ever called green by anyone, ” answered Yunmen.’ (The Iron Flute)

How does the fruit get to be ripe if it was never green? Maybe we can let go of the idea of stages, and just be complete right now.


‘Daowu was sitting on the high seat of meditation when a monk came and asked, “What is the greatest depth of the teaching?” Daowu came down from the seat to kneel on the floor saying, “You are here after traveling from afar, but I am sorry to have nothing to answer you.” ‘ (The Iron Flute)

Those old teachers were pretty useless, eh? Nothing to say to someone who had traveled a long way for some teaching….

What is the answer that he does give?

Taiyuan Fu

‘One day the monk Baofu Congzhan was cutting a melon when Taiyuan Fu came up to him.
Baofu said, “If you say the right thing I’ll give you a piece of melon to eat.”
Taiyuan said, “Give me one.”
Baofu gave him a piece of melon.
Taiyuan took it and went away.’ (Zen’s Chinese Heritage)

This one still makes me laugh.


‘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 you expect to find buddha nature? What do you think this looked like to the monk?


‘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 you expect to find Buddha? What do you think he looked like to the monk?

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 he asked, “After all, what will you do with it?”‘ (Case 25)

I was looking for this to post on my Instagram, and couldn’t find it in my archive here, so here it is, perhaps for the first time. I know I have used this in a dharma talk at Zen Center, and it continues to resonate for me. What would you do with it?