“How is it after it has emerged from the water?” the monastic asked. Zhimen says, “Lotus leaves.” Are they the same or different? Before practice we have an experience of ourselves, of our mind, of the things we get caught in. After the lotus has emerged—once we’ve seen our nature awaken—what is it? Yuanwu says, “If you say it’s the same, then you confuse your buddha nature and cloud your thusness. If you say it’s different, then mind and environment are not yet different and you descend to travel the road of interpretation. When will you ever cease?” So is it the same or different?

Yuanwu relates a story where a monastic asked a teacher, “How was it before the Buddha appeared in the world?” The teacher raised his kutz—his teaching staff. The monastic asked again, “How about after the Buddha appeared in the world?” The teacher raised the whisk. Yunmen, commenting on this said, “The first time, he drove home. The second time he missed.”

Before realization, after realization, nothing changes. The notion of change is part of that illusion. To speak of transformation is to use the discriminating mind and recognize before and after, better and worse, less developed, more developed. Then why does Yunmen say, “The first time he came home, he drove home. The second time he missed”? And is Zhimen’s response different? What’s the difference between the lotus flower and lotus leaves? It’s not a course in botany, so what’s going on?

 

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Xuedou says in the pointer, “If you can discern the phrase outside of patterns, then when one is raised you understand three.” We have a tendency to look at these words and begin to analyze them. Yuanwu says, “If you say it’s different, the mind and environment are not yet different and you descend to travel the road of interpretation. When will you ever cease?” It never ceases; there’s always more to explain./p>

Don’t attach to the names and the words. As the old master says, when we understand things, then we can take in all things; all the good and all the bad, all the beauty, the generosity, the compassion of human nature, as well as the madness, the selfishness and the cruelty. You can take them all in, but they won’t take you in. You won’t be fooled by any of these things. You’ll no longer see them as possessing a self-nature that has an independent existence. That’s why Yuanwu asks, “Can I fool you?”

In a sense, that’s a lot of what happens in training and in koan practice when the teacher tests the student. In a way they’re testing, can I fool you? Can I deceive you with a word, a phrase, a question? It’s not a test to see who’s good and who’s bad, who’s winning or losing. It’s a way of helping us to see where we’re getting fooled, where we’re allowing ourselves to be turned around by confusion, doubt, fear, anger.