“Furong was about to open his mouth to speak when Touzi covered his mouth with a flywhisk.” Footnote to that says, “Endless conversation always leads to distraction.” One of the most difficult things we need to deal with are endless conversations leading to distraction. When our mouths are engaged in high gear, everything else disappears. We become totally tuned into what we want to say. We don’t see anything else. Our awareness disappears. It’s as if we’re blind, deaf, and dumb. There’s nothing wrong with conversation. It’s an important part of human communication, but we should understand its place.


Photo by Stuart Hopwood


“As soon as your mind arises,” the master said, “you deserve twenty blows of the stick.” The footnote says, “When the mind arises, brambles appear.” Even if the mind does not arise, this is not yet it. It’s not enough to have an empty mind, to walk around like a zombie. What is the mind of the moment that is neither chasing thoughts nor empty like some dead person lying in a coffin? It’s the everyday mind of taking a meal, of directly experiencing.

“Furong had a realization, made a bow, and began to leave. Touzi called out, ‘Reverend!’ and Furong didn’t even turn his head.” The footnote to that says, “When its stomach is full, you can’t push a cow’s head down to eat.” Furong finally got it. But the old man was testing him. He wanted to see if there was still some question in Furong’s mind. “Touzi said, ‘Have you reached a place of no doubt?’” The footnote says, “The old master will create complications where he can.” He’s going to keep poking and probing to see what’s loose, what needs to be taken care of. If Furong had answered, Touzi would have taken another bite out of him. Furong’s response was to cover his ears and leave. The footnote says, “Enough. Enough!” He didn’t need anymore.

“Just as Furong is about to fall into a thicket of word brambles”—by answering Touzi’s question about the emperors–“Touzi snatches away his tongue.” It’s amazing what happens when you grab somebody’s tongue and they can’t talk anymore. They listen, they see, they feel, they touch. It’s perception that goes beyond the senses, beyond imagination. It carries us into the world of wonderment. Inconceivable, ineffable.

The commentary continues, “Having broken the rhinoceros horn of doubt, there is no calling him back.” Breaking the rhinoceros horn of doubt means that Furong’s question was finally resolved. “Tell me, what is this place of no doubt that Touzi asks about?” What does it mean to have resolved the question of doubt? It means to really trust yourself—not the Zen masters, not the buddhas, not the ancestors. Trust yourself. But, you’re not going to do that unless you are really in touch with yourself. There’s the rub.

“So tell me, what is this place of no doubt that Touzi asks about? If you can show it”—not explain it, show it–“then whether you dwell in the canyons of a city or the stillness of a wilderness, I will grant you are free, unhindered, and complete wherever you stand. If not, you must study this matter of everyday meals carefully.” Don’t think that the wonder and the miracles only happen when you’ve traveled days into the wilderness. It’s around you all the time. It’s every breath you take, everything you do, every encounter that you have. It’s seeing, hearing, feeling, loving with the whole body and mind.

The capping verse:

Winding river, endless mountains—
the dark forest breathing mist.
There is no road into the sacred place.
It’s just that, the deeper you go,
the more wondrous it becomes.

There’s no road map, there are no directions, no handbook that I can give you. You have to go very deep into yourself to find it. It’s not out there. The sacred place is wherever we stand, whatever we do when we do it completely–when we engage it with the whole body and mind. When we’re able to do that, we manifest the wonder, the miracle of really being human, the miracle of buddha nature, the nature of all beings. It is your nature, my nature. We shouldn’t waste our life. Our struggles, our feelings of helplessness notwithstanding, we can take care of what we need to take care of. Crush that rhinoceros horn of doubt. Do it. Let your practice motto be “Can do, will do, done.” And in so doing, give life to the buddha


Photo by Joel Sansho Benton


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.

True Dharma Eye: Master Dogen’s Three Hundred Koans, is a complete, modern English translation of Master Dogen’s Three Hundred Koan or Chinese Shobogenzo. This important collection of koans, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and John Daido Loori, is accompanied by John Daido Loori’s commentary, capping verse and footnotes (Shambhala Publications, 2005).