Tuesday, 28 November 2017


174. Given the intractable character of many of the problems that bedevil our world, a vow to 'save all beings' must appear as a serious, even daunting, undertaking. And yet Master Hakuin will insist that 'singing and dancing are the voice of the Law'.  

Monday, 27 November 2017


173. Myosho echoed Isan's laughter and brought Sozan to awakening. Isan echoed the laughter of his own master Hyakujo who, many years before, had laughed and said, 'the head monk loses', and so had nominated Isan the founder of the monastery where Sozan in his turn heard that sword-like laughter ringing out. It would seem that Master Hyakujo was a great one for laughing, a laughter that he transmitted not only to Isan but also to his brilliant disciple Obaku. For on the occasion when Obaku had gone up to him and boxed his ears, Hyakujo had simply clapped his hands together, laughed and said, 'I was thinking that the barbarian had a red beard, but now I see before me the red-bearded barbarian himself''. The sword in Hyakujo's laughter cuts away illusion, brings to awakening and transmits the dharma to his legitimate successors. Have you heard this laughter echoing down through the centuries?

Thursday, 23 November 2017


172. The sword can both take life and give life. The sword in Isan's laughter took Sozan's (illusory) life and directed him to Myosho the 'one eyed dragon' who, in echoing Isan's laughter, wielded the sword that gave Sozan the (awakened) life he so eagerly sought. But why did he have to travel a thousand miles to find that which he had always possessed and had never lost? No wonder Isan laughed! 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


171. Isan's laughing response to Sozan was surely offensive. Indeed, Sozan immediately objected, asking why the master treated him lightly, especially as he had undertaken an arduous and expensive  journey of a thousand miles on foot in search of enlightenment. But even then Isan offers neither apology nor explanation. He does, however, instruct his attendant to give money to Sozan to help with his expenses. Then, as if as an afterthought, he seems to direct Sozan to consult another master (a 'one eyed dragon') who will awaken him. And so it came to pass, at which point Sozan suddenly realized that 'there was a sword in Isan's laughter'.    

Friday, 17 November 2017


170. When the 9th century Chinese monk Sozan learnt that Master Isan had said, 'Words of being and words of non-being are just like wisteria wound around a tree', he was deeply perplexed. He felt he had no option but to visit the master and question him. But this would prove to be no easy task. It involved a thousand mile journey on foot. Moreover, to finance such a journey, Sozan found that he had to sell all his belongings. When at last he reached Master Isan, he immediately questioned him, saying: 'I have heard that you said, "Words of being and words of non-being are just like wisteria wound around a tree". Now, I want to ask, if suddenly the tree falls down and the wisteria withers, where will the words go?' Isan's only reply was to burst out laughing. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017


169. A meditative inquiry into the question 'Who am I?' undercuts any ground on which we might attempt to stand. Here we must face the challenge, 'Standing nowhere, let your mind come forth!'

Monday, 6 November 2017


168. Some might think that the question 'Who am I?' is easily answered. And indeed it usually is, in conventional terms. But when asked in the context of a meditative inquiry, the answer becomes much more elusive. Here questioning carries one deeper and deeper into the mystery of the True Self. And, as the patriarch Eka discovered when he went searching for his mind, it will be found that the answer to the question 'Who am I?' escapes our grasp.