He continues this work today. We should know that the only way we can make something this extraordinary happen is to acknowledge the fact that what different types of beings see—the government, the pharmaceutical companies—is different, and we should reflect on that fact. What does it mean to see things the way another being sees them? It means to forget the self, to let go of our own perspective. This can be very hard to do, especially when we feel very strongly about our particular point of view. We need to see that the world is large and diverse and that there are many different ways of seeing. To be skillful in working with other people, we need to be able to perceive things the way others perceive them.

When Dizang asked Xiushan, “Are the mountains, rivers and the earth identical or separate from you?” Xiushan said, “Separate.” Dizang held up two fingers. Clearly the old man was trying to show Xiushan something. Xiushan knew this. He immediately jumped to the other side, “Identical, identical.” Beautiful logic: if it’s not separate, then it must be the same. Right? Again, Dizang held up two fingers. Why? Why is identical two and separate two? Do you understand? If you can understand this, you’re inside this koan. If you do understand, the commentary says, “Say a word on behalf of Xiushan.” How would you answer the master’s question?

“An old master once said, ‘Communication with the source is one’s own practice.’” That’s what you do personally. By practicing, you communicate with the source. “‘Communication by speech is the ability to show others.’” That’s your expression of that communication. It’s the ability to show others what you have seen. I hear students say all the time, “I know what it is, but I just can’t express it.” Until you can express it, you have not yet seen it. That’s where it comes to life—through creative expression. It has to become your own.

 

 

“Xiushan got quiet. He disappeared into the depth of the great doubt…” Great doubt is the pivotal point of Zen practice. But this kind of doubt is not skepticism, and it’s not superficial doubt either, but a state of perplexity that gives rise to a probing inquiry. It’s a very intense self-questioning. Yasutani Roshi talked about the three pillars, the three essentials of Zen: great faith, great doubt, and great perseverance. Great faith is trust—trust in yourself and in the process that you’re engaging. Because of great trust, great doubt becomes powerful. They’re in dynamic equilibrium. You absolutely know that you can realize yourself, but you don’t know how or when you will do it. That’s the cutting edge of practice. Great perseverance is necessary because without it, you would wear out very quickly. “Seven times knocked down, eight times get up.” You’re just going to do it. Nothing’s going to stop you. If it takes five years or a hundred years, you’re going to do it.

After being quiet for a while, Xiushan said, “I don’t know whether mountains, rivers and the earth are identical or separate from me.” A very different kind of person appeared right there. That’s a transformation in itself. Keep in mind that he is the abbot of a monastery, with his own students, as were the other masters mentioned in the Book of Serenity version of the koan. Yet, after this encounter, all four of them returned to Dizang and later succeeded him.