Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mumonkan, Koan 3: Gutei Raises A Finger

Whenever Gutei Osho was asked about Zen, he simply raised his finger. Once a visitor asked Gutei's boy attendant: "What does your master teach?" The boy too raised his finger. Hearing of this, Gutei cut off the boy's finger with a knife. The boy, screaming with pain, began to run away. Gutei called to him and, when turned around, Gutei raised his finger. The boy suddenly became enlightened.

There's a big difference between someone answering a question about Zen by raising a finger, and someone saying a master teaches people to raise their finger. It's not that the boy really thought that all his master was teaching people was to raise their finger, but the fact that the boy attached significance to this action was mistaken. True understanding cannot be handed off in canned answers from one person to the next.

This is the danger of trying to communicate Zen learning directly, of 'feeding it' to people. The extreme lesson Gutei taught this boy was that truth is inside of him. Even without his finger, he can access it. This led the boy to make a leap and become enlightened.

No comments: