Daido Roshi writes, "When a clear-eyed person meets a person of knowledge, regardless of their rank or position, then the teacher meets the disciple and the great function is brought forth." This is the great function of testing and revealing the principle: showing that everyone, everything, everywhere is ceaselessly, perfectly revealing the truth. Delusion is the sense of something false, the sense of something lacking, of separateness, of solidity, permanence, but that falseness is just an upside down way of seeing things. And after awhile of seeing thing upside down, they begin to appear right side up. This is why seeing into the illusory appearance of things is so difficult. What is the Great Way that is not difficult, that is clear and undisguised? Is there anything outside of it? Is there anything, anyone that is not it? Fayan said to his assembly:
Haven't you heard about Shitou? Upon reading the Zhao Lun, he exclaimed, 'Understanding that all things are the self, this is what all the ancient Holy Ones realized.' He also said 'The Holy Ones did not have a self, nor was there anything that was not their selves.' All of you should understand that the myriad beings are your own self, and that, across the great earth there isn't a single dharma that can be observed.
There is not a single particle that is outside this vast body and mind, this true body of reality.
Baoen was upset when Fayan made it clear that he had not understood Yuezhou's words. His first reaction was: I'm outta here. When we're encased in the diamond-solid concept of the self, so many things are perceived as threats. If we hold on, the encasement just gets harder, more solidifed, more justified. Fayan sees that Baoen is disturbed, and he lets him go. This is very important. He doesn't call after him or try to assuage his pain; he lets him go. Why? Did he let him go because he figured Baoen was a lost cause, not a genuine student? Did Fayan just not care about Baoen? Or did he know that if he let him go that spark of life within Baoen might just burst into flames. In letting him go, something extraordinary happened, something that even a great teacher can't will to occur. What happened for Baoen—as it does for many students—was wholly within his own deep inner life: he began to wonder, and in that openness, he shifted.
Baoen thought, "Fayan is a teacher of many, many students. He's a well-known teacher, he didn't approve me, but being a fine teacher what he said should be correct," and so he turned back and apologized. Dogen says, "If we don't step forward we cannot encounter the Dharma. If we cannot bend then we will continue to fall in endless cycles of birth and death." Baoen bends and steps forward, and in that action, the mind of the student burst into life. But we should know that this beginner's mind was always there. We may observe a new sense of humility; as his arrogance drops away, his openness and trust may surface, and all of this is important. But underneath it all is his Way-seeking mind—an unceasing aspiration to be free of the diamond-solid concept of self.
Baoen returns to Fayan and apologizes. Fayan says "Well, why don't you ask me?" Baoen says, "What is the self of the practitioner?" This is not the same question as before. How is it not the same? The key to the koan is right here; Baoen's awakening is right here, "What is the self of the practitioner?" Fayan answers, "The fire god seeks fire."
At that moment he sees it; it penetrates his eyes, it pierces his ears, he's killed by delusion. At that moment there is not enough room to contain the sounds and forms of the universe. Not enough room in this body, in this person with a personality and this idea, in this monk. In order to hold it all he had to lose his sides, his bottom, his top, front and back. Burning through, it is the 'fire god seeking fire.' It's as though he knows fire for the first time.