Don't Betray Others

Dharma Discourse by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei
True Dharma Eye, Case 47
Guishan’s “Do Not Betray Others”

Featured in Mountain Record 29.4, Summer 2011

Main Case

One day Guishan sat, and after sitting, he pointed at the straw sandals and said to Yangshan, “All hours of the day, we receive people’s support. Don’t betray them.”
Guishan said, “That’s not enough. Say more.”
Yangshan said, “When it is cold, to wear socks for others is not prohibited.”


Old masters throughout time have always looked to the guiding and aiding of all living beings. They set up their shops according to their capacities and in response to the imperative of time, place, position, and degree. Appearing and disappearing in harmony with the occasion, they create countless kinds of expedient means to alleviate suffering.

Guishan wants everyone to know, so he stirs things up by saying, “All hours of the day, we receive people’s support. Don’t betray them.” Yangshan is an adept and cannot help but respond. Guishan’s intention however, is unfathomable—he wants more. Without hesitation Yangshan again rises to meet the old man’s challenge. But say, what is Yangshan’s meaning?

We should understand that “to wear socks for others” is a very personal matter. It is the seamless dharma activity that is the ten thousand hands and eyes of great compassion itself. It is the spiritual light of the four virtues of a bodhisattva manifesting in the ten directions. But tell me, right now, how do you manifest it in your life?

Capping Verse

Pure jeweled eyes, virtuous arms—
formless and selfless, they enter the fray.
The great function works in all ways—
these hands and eyes are the whole thing.

There’s something I’d like to address today and this koan will help me to do so. I will not address the important points of the koan as carefully as I otherwise would so that I can concentrate on the topic that I’d like to bring up. I’ve been thinking about all that it takes for us to be able to do this practice; to have the support of partners, families, friends, and co-workers. In our training, the monastic’s entire life depends on the support of the lay sangha; the lay sangha’s training depends on the support of the monastics. It’s a perfectly interdependent, living system. Everywhere it is like this: there’s parent and child, family and farmer, public servant and voter, bees and flowers. Each creature on this earth and the earth itself are always giving and receiving. The student depends on the support of the teacher; the teacher depends on the sincerity and trust of the student. Try to find one moment, one situation where this is not completely true.