Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mumonkan, Koan 11: Joshu Sees The Hermits

Joshu went to a hermit's cottage and asked, "Is the master in? Is the master in?" The hermit raised his fist. Joshu said, "The water is too shallow to anchor here," and he went away. Coming to another hermit's cottage, he asked again, "Is the master in? Is the master in?" This hermit, too, raised his fist. Joshu said, "Free to give, free to take, free to kill, free to save," and he made a deep bow.

I'm stuck. I've been considering this koan for a while now, and I just cannot make any headway! I just don't get it.

At one point, I was so frustrated that I was about to read Mumon's comments. But I immediately realized this would be the worst possible thing I could do. First, making a federal case about not being able to figure out one koan is ridiculous. Second, anything I might learn from reading the solution would be useless to me because I would have learned without experiencing. Although I might gain some insight in the short term, I would just end up forgetting it all before long. If practicing Zen has taught me anything, it's that the only things that truly stick with us in meaningful ways are the things we learn through our own experience.

As a result, I've decided to just move on to the next koan. There is one bit of consolation. As I wrote in my posting about Daitsu Chisho Buddha (see post on koan 9), I've found that even returning to a koan I have solved can yield additional or deeper understanding. If that's the case, someday when I come back to Joshu Sees The Hermits, maybe I will have learned what I need to answer it.

For now, it's on to the next one!

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