Jan. 23 – 29

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The path of life seems to be mostly difficulties, things that give trouble. Yet the longer we practice, the more we begin to understand that those sharp rocks on the road are in fact like precious jewels.

– Joko Beck

This Week’s Koan

Gateless Gate #24: Leaving Speech and Silence Behind

A monk asked Fengxue in all earnestness, “Both speech and silence are concerned with ri [subject] and mi [object]. How can we transcend them?”

Fengxue said, “I constantly think of Konan in March, where partridges are chirping among hundreds of fragrant blossoms.”


Fengxue (b. 896; Japanese: “Fuketsu”) began Zen study under Jingqing on the Caodong (Soto) side of our lineage. Then he studied under Nanyuan on the Linji (Rinzai) side and became Linji’s dharma great-grandson.

The fourth-century text, Treatise on the Jewel Treasury, says:

“To enter is ri, to come out is mi.
When we enter ri, the dust of the outer world has no place to adhere.
When we come out to mi, the inner mind has nothing to do with it.”

That is, if we separate from the phenomenal world and enter into the inner world, that is ri. When we come out of the inner world, that is called mi. Speech is of mi, the phenomenal world, and silence is of ri, separated from the phenomenal world. Thus, both speech and silence are connected with subject and object — with the dualistic world. The monk seeks to transcend these dualistic concepts.

Subject and object are intrinsically one. “Only I, alone and sacred,” is the same as, “No I.” Fengxue’s reply manifests a consciousness in which there is neither subject nor object — neither “only I, alone and sacred,” nor “no I.”

“I constantly think of Konan in March, where partridges are chirping among hundreds of fragrant blossoms,” is Fengxue’s way of transcending speech and silence, ri and mi. Now show me yours.

Wumen’s Verse:

Fengxue does not speak in his usual style;
Before he says anything, it is already manifested.
If you go on chattering glibly,
You should be ashamed of yourself.

This Week’s Reading

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, “Preparing the Ground,” p. 113.

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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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