If it were true that essence and function cannot be expressed simultaneously, then the truth of the dharma would have nothing to do with the reality of our lives, and this is not so. It most certainly has to do with the reality of our lives. "Keeping in mind that thirty blows cannot be ignored, say a word."


Mehrdad Azradi


"We should understand that essence and function are a single truth." How could it be otherwise in the non-dual dharma? "Principle and phenomena are not two realities. However, Zen practitioners inevitably fall to one side or the other." That's because our minds are basically dualistic. We've been conditioned to think that way. Our world, our culture, our existence is based on a dualistic view of ourselves and the universe. Thus, we inevitably fall to one side or the other. We should understand all is not one, nor is it two. Then what is it? "The question is, how do we leap past the dualities and show the clear perfect reality of the single truth?"

We know the process—take the backward step, practice, realize, actualize. But all of it, every aspect of it, must be engaged for it to work. How much we do is not as important as the quality of the effort we put into it. That's where it counts—the meticulousness of our effort. An hour of meticulous zazen is much more powerful than ten hours of monkey-mind zazen.

Phenomena and principle are not two realities. They only appear to be different to a deluded mind. Don't be deluded.

The capping verse:

Within the myriad forms,
    a single body is revealed.
Only when you're sure for yourself,
   will you enter this truth.

Within the ten thousand forms, there is a single body. It's there. You just have to see it for yourself. Only when you're sure for yourself will you enter this truth. You're the only one who can do it. Buddha can't do it. I can't do it. Only you can do it. The question is, are you willing? I have nothing to give you. Will you do it?

Koans of the Way of Reality is a collection of koans complied at Zen Mountain Monasery over the last twenty-five years. It includes both koans that appear in the traditional collections as well as pieces taken from other sources and treated as koans because of their relevance for modern Western practitioners.

John Daido Loori, Roshi is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery. A successor to Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi, Roshi, Daido Roshi trained in rigorous koan Zen and in the subtle teachings of Master Dogen, and is a lineage holder in the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen.