Before officiating the morning service one day, I was reflecting on how vividly we can distort reality through the grasping contained within our loves and hates. Within a crowd of people, the ones who are invested with our emotional attachments appear bigger than those who act as the supporting cast. There are the giants and the Lilliputians. Some contribute to our sense of self because we make them important; others disappear into the undifferentiated pool of irrelevant dullness. Yet, all are blessed lives; all are in their proper place. Everything is essential. Every gate is open. Every gate faces the other.

What does this world look like when we release the rigidness of our narratives, beliefs, preferences, and attachments? Look deeply into Chaochou’s answer. That’s how he sees the world because he is that world. That’s the field that he is creating for you to step into, and recognize the same about yourself.

This is the basis for a genuine teacher-student connection, for the mind-tomind transmission which rests in nothing other than your practice of realizing that reality. This is what is being conveyed here. This is the heart of wisdom and compassion.

Shakyamuni Buddha’s appreciation of mind-to-mind transmission was likely different from what emerged in China when Zen Buddhism appeared there as a unique school and expression of Buddhism. What was the same was the total trust in one’s own intrinsic wisdom and commitment to practice. However the early teachers and students of the dharma understood the teachings, however they may have engaged them and expressed them to the next generation, it worked. Something got transmitted. Something reached Chao-chou and his student. Something surfaced in this hall and keeps percolating each day, enlivening reality.

In Chao-chou’s response, there is an invitation to recognize something about yourself, about a teacher, about the person who is sitting next to you, and the common thread that links all of this together.

“What is Chaochou?” What is the nature of your freedom? If you want to appreciate Chao-chou deeply, don’t drag him into this. Yet, if you turn your back on him, where will you go? What will you do? You can’t miss him. All of the gates are open




The Blue Cliff Record or Hekiganroku is a collection of one hundred koans originally compiled in China by Zen Master Xuedou during the Song dynasty (960–1279 c.e.) and later commented on by Zen Master Yuanwu.

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