Using Reality to Teach Reality

Dharma Discourse by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, Sensei
Blue Cliff Record, Case 25
The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak Holds up His Staff

Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Sensei is the abbot and director of operations of Zen Mountain Monastery. He received dharma transmission from Daido Roshi in 2009.

Featured in Mountain Record 29.4, Summer 2011


If your potential does not leave (its fixed) position, you tumble down into the poison sea. If your words don’t startle the crowd, you fall into the streams of the commonplace.
Suddenly, if you can distinguish initiate from lay in the light of sparks struck from stone, if you can decide between killing and giving life in the light of a flash of lightning, then you can cut off the ten directions and tower up like a thousand fathom wall.
But do you know that such a time exists? To test I’m citing this old case: look!


The hermit of Lotus Flower Peak held up his staff and showed it to the assembly saying, “When the ancients got here, why didn’t they consent to stay here?”
There was no answer from the assembly, so he himself answered for them, “Because they did not gain strength on the road.”
Again he said, “In the end, how is it?” And again he himself answered in their place, “With my staff across my shoulder, I pay no heed to people—I go straight into the myriad peaks.”


Dust and sand in his eyes, dirt in his ears,
He doesn't consent to stay in the myriad peaks.
Falling flowers, flowing streams, very vast.
Suddenly raising my eyebrows (to look)—where has he gone?

When your financial manager offers a philosophical observation, it is usually worth paying attention. Just before this talk, we were reviewing our monthly statements, and needed to transfer some money from one account to another. Writing and then rewriting a few checks, the financial manager looked up from his work and innocently said, “Do you realize that a negative void is a positive thing?”

There was neatness in that equation, and an anticipation of this koan—many koans for that matter. Within the declaration of the identity of emptiness and form, the underpinning of the Mahayana world-view, how do we understand voidness and the necessary extension of that consideration, the voidness of voidness? Where does the hermit of Lotus Flower Peak emerge within this world? Amidst all-inclusive negation, what is the staff held up for our eyes to see? This is what needs to be completely seen through and appreciated.