Jan. 16 – 22

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I recommend a practice to help us catch ourselves in the act of judging: whenever we say the name of another person, we should watch what we add to the name. What do we say or think about the person? What kind of label do we use? Do we put the person into some category?

– Joko Beck

This Week’s Koan

Blue Cliff Record #95: Changqing’s “Three Poisons”

One day Changqing said, “Even if you argue that an arhat [a person who has reached the spiritual dimension without any traces of ‘the three poisons’: covetousness, anger, folly] still possesses ‘the three poisons’, don’t argue that the Tathagata has two sorts of language. I do not say the Tathagata has no words. I only say he does not have two kinds of language.”

Baofu said, “What are the words of the Tathagata?”

Changqing said, “How can a deaf man hear?”

Baofu said, “Now I know that your language belongs to the second level.”

Changqing said, “What are the words of the Tathagata?”

Baofu said, “Have some tea.”


Baofu (Japanese: Hofuku, b. 868), and Changqing (Japanese: Chokei, b. 854) were companions and dharma brothers, disciples of Xuefeng (Japanese: Seppo, b. 822). Many koans show them bantering and playing off each other — testing and challenging and sharpening their zen.

There is, we sometimes say. the language of emptiness, the absolute, the timeless. There is, we sometimes say, the language of form, the relative, the temporal. Changqing says the Tathagata (one the titles of the Buddha) does not have two kinds of language. He may seem to be talking about the absolute, but, since the absolute is the relative, he’s talking just as much about the relative. He may seem to be talking about the relative, but, since the relative is the absolute, he’s talking just as much about the absolute.

This time Baofu gets the last line: “Have some tea.” Don’t imagine that he’s changing the subject. He is directly and immediately manifesting the Tathagata’s not-two language. He is showing what the words of the Tathagata are. Do you see?

This Week’s Reading

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, “Do Not Judge,” p. 103.

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About mgarmon

b. 1959; grew up VA, NC, AL, GA; also lived in TX, TN, MN, and now in FL; m. 1979; 1 daughter, b 1980; 1 son, b. 1982; div. 1997; m. 2000; Honduran son, b. 1987, adopted 2004; schooled: U West Ga, Emory, Baylor, UVa; UTS; MLTS. Former philosophy professor, now a UU minister and zen student.

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