Sunday, 10 July 2016


46. Concerning Basho's staff, Master Mumon Ekai makes this comment: 'If you call it a staff, you will enter hell like an arrow'. The image is vivid, even shocking, but its message is surely greatly exaggerated. If not exaggerated, then Mumon's notion of hell does not square with Dante's 'abandon hope all ye who enter here'. A Zen practitioner need never abandon hope. (Bear in mind: great faith, great doubt, great determination.) Fidelity to the practice, especially under the guidance of a skillful and enlightened master who teaches within a compassionate sangha, brings one countless opportunities for awakening to one's True Self. Even 'calling it a staff' and being thrown out by the master, can function as turning words. Doubtless Mumon's hyperbole is deliberately designed to effect the disciple's longed for Enlightenment-Realisation.


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