Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mumonkan, Koan 10: Seizei Is Utterly Destitute

Seizei said to Sozan, "Seizei is utterly destitute. Will you give him support?". Sozan called out: "Seizei!". Seizei responded, "Yes sir!". Sozan said, "You have finished three cups of the finest wine in China, and still you say you have not yet moistened your lips!"

No one who has experienced something can be 'utterly destitute'. Only a man who has never had a drop of water or wine, can be utterly destitute in terms of his thirst. The drinking of wine being a metaphor for Zen.

Sozan is clearly Seizei's master, and his scolding about how Seizei has tasted fine wine suggests Seizei is somewhat advanced in his studies and has experience with zazen, kensho, and maybe even satori. Therefore he is (and should be) capable of supporting himself. If he has reached a place where he feels 'destitute', then he must find the way out of that based on what he has learned so far. His master is there to guide him, to teach, to challenge, to mentor, etc. He is not there (nor is any teacher or master) to 'support' him. The same goes for all of us.

In a sense, Sozan's answer was the equivalent of saying: "Don't be a drama queen!"

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