In the koan, Caoshan says, “Today Caoshan’s filial duty is fulfilled.” Then the monk asks, “ How about after the fulfillment of filial duty?” What happens after one realizes the self as empty, after discovering that this great body covers heaven and earth? This is an essential question, because it is possible to attach to the experience of emptiness, and as the commentary says, to “cling to the cold twig.” Master Hakuin said, “As long as you remain in this hiding place”— that is, the place of attaching to the experience ofemptiness—“inside and outside are transparent and your understanding seems perfectly clear. The moment that this bright insight comes into direct contact with differentiations, defiling conditions of turmoil and confusion, agitation and vexation, love and hate, you will find yourself utterly helpless before them and all the miseries of existence will press in upon you.” Attachment to emptiness does not yet make us free, and until we let it go, we will find ourselves helpless when we come into contact with the activity and confusion—with the madness—of life.
Caoshan said, “Caoshan likes to get falling down drunk.” The commentary says, “Caoshan is sometimes sober in the midst of intoxication.” Master Dogen said, “‘Buddhas are enlightened within delusion.” Sober within drunkenness, enlightened within delusion; so the bodhisattva embodies great wisdom and equanimity within the entanglements of people and their lives.
The commentary continues, “Sometimes he’s sober but he can’t tell day from night. It’s all because his dreams of yellow grain have ended.” How do we free ourselves of the discriminating mind, so that we’re no longer governed by our attachments to what we like and dislike? When all the dreams that we have of being perfectly fulfilled by our desires, of being loved perfectly and forever, of receiving the recognition and success we’re sure we deserve; when we are no longer living in this dream state, then we have awakened from our drunken state and can face the world sober and joyful. When we are caught within our attachments, our fantasies seem to be most interesting. But the more we let go and face the real truth, the less interesting they are. Then, what moves forward into our view is the profoundly interesting matter of life—real life.