The Question of Life and Death

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi
Koans of the Way of Reality, Case 67
The Seven Wise Women

Featured in Mountain Record 30.3
Click here to order this discourse on MP3.

John Daido Loori Roshi (1931-2009) was the abbot of Zen Mountain
Monastery and founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order. A successor to Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Daido Roshi was a lineage holder in
both the Rinzai and Soto schools of Zen.

Main Case

When Master Guishan was studying under Baizhang, he worked as a tenzo at the monastery. Baizhang wanted to choose an abbot for Dayi Monastery. He told the head monk and all the rest of his disciples to make their Zen presentations, and the ablest one would be sent to found the monastery. Then Baizhang took a pitcher, placed it on the floor and asked the question: “This must not be called a pitcher. What do you call it?” The head monk said, “It cannot be called a wooden sandal.” Baizhang then asked Guishan. Guishan walked up, kicked over the pitcher, and left. Baizhang said, “The head monk has been defeated by Guishan.” So Guishan was ordered to start the monastery.

Capping Verse

Mountains, rivers, and the Great Earth
are not seen in a mirror.
Reason exhausted, ideas and opinions forgotten—
what is it that remains for comparison?