Mar. 12 – 25 (Two weeks)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Our regular Friday evening sit is cancelled for both Friday March 16 and Friday March 23. The Friday sit will resume in Friday March 30. Meredith will be away at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s retreat at Camp Montgomery on March 16, and away in Jacksonville for the Florida UU District Assembly on March 23. Our Friday sit will resume on March 30.

The experiential level is not some strange, exotic thing. It may be a tingling of the skin or a contraction in the chest or a tight face — the experiential level is quite basic and never far away. It’s what we are right now. The experiential level is nothing special, the the longer we sit, the more basic we know it to be.”

– Joko Beck

This Week’s Koan

Gateless Gate, #18 and Blue Cliff Record #12: Donghshan Shouchu’s ‘Masagin’

A monk asked Dongshan Shouchu, “What is Buddha?”

Dongshan said, “Three pounds of flax [‘Masagin’ in Japanese].”


Dongshan Shouchu (“Tozan Shusho” in Japanese), b. 911
14th Generation
Lineage: Shitou > Tianhuang > Longtan > Deshan > Xuefeng > Yunmen > Dongshan Shouchu
Dharma Siblings: Baling, Xianglin, Fengxian, Deshan Yuanming
Appears also in: Gateless Gate #15

Thirty-five koans ago, we were looking at a similarly-structured koan: Gateless Gate #21:

A monk asked Yunmen, “What is Buddha?”
Yunmen said, “Dried shitstick [‘Kanshiketsu’ in Japanese].”

Now we are come to Gateless Gate #18, wherein Yunmen’s disciple, Dongshan Shouchu, is asked the same question: “What is Buddha?” Is the disciple’s answer the same as his teacher’s? Or completely different? Wumen included both Yunmen’s “Kanshiketsu” and Dongshan’s “Masagin” in his Gateless Gate, while Xuedou included only Dongshan’s “Masagin” in his Blue Cliff Record. Is “Masagin” more profound? Did Xuedou regard “dried shitstick” as shock-value-merely-for-shock-value’s-sake?

Thirty-seven koans ago, we heard the story of how Dongshan Shouchu, when studying with his teacher, Yunmen, was awakened. Gateless Gate #15:

Dongshan came to see Yunmen. Yunmen asked him, “Where were you most recently?”
Dongshan said, “At Chatu.”
Yunmen said, “Where were you during the summer?”
Dongshan said, “At Baozu Monastery in Hunan.”
Yunmen said, “When did you leave there?”
Dongshan said, “August 25th.”
Yunmen said, “I spare you 60 blows.”
Next day, Dongshan came again and said, “Yesterday you said you spared me 60 blows. I don’t know where I was at fault.”
Yunmen said, “You rice bag! Do you go about in such a way, now west of the river, now south of the lake!”
With this, Dongshan had great satori.

This week, we see that the “rice bag” has turned Yunmen’s “kanshiketsu” into “masagin” — turned the dried shitstick into three pounds of flax. What goes around comes around!

Wumen’s Verse:

Thrusting forth “three pounds of flax!”
The words are intimate, mind is more so;
if you argue right and wrong,
you are a person of right and wrong.

This Week’s Reading

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, “False Generalization,” p. 173.

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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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