The verse begins, “Asking without knowing, answering, still not understanding. The moon is cold, the wind is high. On the ancient cliff, frigid juniper.” Cold and high, the moon and wind. The ancient cliff, frigid juniper. These are images that point to a place that’s free of everything, life and death, people and things. All warmth is gone. “Cold” here is not being cut off or uncaring. Rather it’s the place beyond all concern, free of entanglements in emotionality and feelings, free from the warmth and companionship of our thoughts and ideas. It is absolute solitude where nothing of the self remains; thus, no knowing, no understanding.
“How delightful: on the road he met a person who had attained the Path, and didn’t use speech or silence to reply.” This student had the great fortune to meet a true teacher, one who didn’t use ordinary means to convey the truth. But if Ta Lung didn’t use speech, can you deny that he spoke? In speaking, can you say he was silent? Does the sky know its vastness? To the boundless ocean, is there any sense of wave and tide?
“His hands grasp the white jade whip and smack the black dragon’s pearl.” The pearl is the gem the dragon holds in its claw or under its chin. If you want to hold it, you have to deal with the dragon. This dragon, this pearl, are nothing but yourself. Yet because they are so close, they seem distant and inaccessible. This we call delusion.
Why is smashing the black dragon’s pearl necessary? In actual practice, you don’t have to smash it—just don’t set it up as something. When nothing is established—smashed. This is what you can rely upon. This dharma, this wisdom, this jewel, it’s always right here, it’s you yourself. But you can’t touch it. You can’t have it. You can’t possess it.
Real practice allows us to join the rest of the universe. Imagine that. Everything else is here. Animate and inanimate beings are here, living together, fulfilling their own virtue without conflict. And it’s good. Teachers of old said, “Observe time and season.” Look and see. The proof of that wisdom is all around us. We are that, through and through. The great discipline of our practice is this very seeing, so that we can cease the obstructing, distrusting mind.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, our bodies and minds are constantly functioning in accord with this dharma, which is the unconditioned, natural law of the universe. Our families, our work, planting a garden, having a service, eating a meal—this is what our training brings us into intimate contact with. The different aspects of our training are ways into the completely natural acts of walking, breathing, taking a meal. And the way into the heart of practice is to bring one’s self into accord with the natural truth of each thing. So kinhin is just walking, nothing else. Not to think about it, not to figure it out. You know how to be in accord. We each know how to do that. Not to walk in just a mechanical sense, but in a transcendent sense. In the sense of it not being me; about me, for me.
The commentary says, “This student offended against all three thousand articles at once. How so? Because he didn’t deal with people on the basis of his own thing.” The student comes 15 forth and asks a question; this is how practice leaps forward. The teacher responds and provides an opening, a possibility. Yet, we should deal with people on the basis of our own provisions. Don’t turn away from your own real nature. Ceaselessly, endlessly turning back to your one true body of dharma, of intelligence, of wisdom.