We should also understand that not only are all the buddhas in the three worlds in the fire turning the dharma wheel, but the fire is turning the great dharma wheel for all buddhas. When the dharma wheel turns, it always goes in both directions. So rather than being consumed by the fire—by conflict, by pain, by samsara—the bodhisattva is nourished by it. The lotus blooms in the fire. The more intense the fire, the more beautiful the lotus, but it takes a warrior spirit to practice that way—it takes the willingness to enter the fire, not only for oneself, but for the benefit of others. That’s what our precepts are about: practicing for the benefit of others with no expectation of recognition or reward. In fact, the result of acting in accord with the precepts could be rejection or punishment, so if you’re in it for recognition or reward, forget about it.

I think of all of the conflicts that exist in our world, in our lives, in our personal relationships—and the teachings of the precepts give us a very definite doorway to resolving them. But there needs to be a willingness. There needs to be a certain amount of courage. Listening to the news, I was thinking, what would be the most radical solution to the problems in the Middle East? You look at what’s going on and see that nobody’s talking to each other, there’s no communication, no meeting each other, listening, hearing, seeing, feeling each other. When we act as if our nations are totally separate, when we don’t make an attempt to communicate, it’s like two punk kids in the schoolyard: he hits you, you hit back. He hits you, you hit back. Where does it end? What action would be for the benefit of all?

Can you imagine world leaders actually wanting to talk, to have a dialogue as human beings, to resolve things by communication? Who has the political and moral courage to take an action to end conflict? Do we even want to end conflict, on either a global scale or on a personal level? I think we like conflict. Think about it: all of the things that entertain us involve conflict. And the more conflict they have, the more entertaining they are. We love conflict. We thrive in it.

It’s our conditioning that creates the flames. And yet it’s within the conditioning, within those flames, that the solutions lie—no other place. As I’ve said before, for the bodhisattva, individual liberation does not exist. There’s no such thing. There is only the liberation of all beings. Are we willing to practice those precepts that way?

I added some footnotes to this koan. In the first line, Xuefeng pointed with his finger at a furnace and said to Xuansha, “All buddhas in the three worlds are in here, turning the great dharma wheel.” The footnote to that says, “He ought to have been hit before he finished talking.” In other words, he should have been shut up before he even said it. Why?