Xuefeng responds, “How so?” And the footnote to that says, “He wants to hear about it.” Xuansha says, “Stealing is not permitted.” At this point, the footnote reads, “An accomplished thief doesn’t strike a poor household.” When Xuefeng makes that opening statement, how is he a thief? To steal is to take away everything, to use it all up. What is Xuefeng stealing? In a sense, you can say the falling away of body and mind uses everything up. When a teacher says a turning word and a student comes to realization, nothing remains—body and mind fall away, the student sees the absolute basis of reality. Then, in a sense, the teacher has stolen away from the student everything that the student was holding on to.

So Xuansha says in effect, there’s another side: you shouldn’t steal. The other side is where everything remains. Nothing is lost. But the truth doesn’t fall into either of these sides. That’s why in the poem it says that they’re playing with mud balls. They’re intellectually batting the dharma around. Neither one of them is directly pointing to the truth.

What is the stealing? What is it that Xuansha is trying to point out by making that statement? Is there another way to make that statement? Not only are all the buddhas in the three worlds present in the fire, turning the dharma wheel, but the dharma wheel is being turned by the fire for the benefit of all beings. If you want to save all sentient beings, you should be prepared to be saved by all sentient beings. It goes both ways. What does it mean to be saved by all sentient beings? It is no different from saving all sentient beings. It means no separation, no distinction, no self and no other. That perspective is a very different basis for communication than one of superiority or inferiority. But it takes an enormous amount of courage to act in a way that nourishes everybody.

It’s the same whether we’re talking about the U.S. as a nation responding to another nation, or each of us as individuals responding to another individual. Whether it’s a friend or an enemy—the energies that come up in us collectively as a nation or individually as a person are the same. And if evil energies are present in us collectively and individually, then so too is the great heart of wisdom and compassion. The question is, how do we uncover it? How do we give life to it?

When we do Jukai, the Precepts Ceremony, the kaishi, or preceptor, chants, “When sentient beings receive the sila, they enter the realm of the buddhas.” The question is, although you wish to enter the realm of the buddhas, are you prepared to give life to the buddha? Or will you only give life to the outward form, without its vital, moral spirit? Are you willing to enter the fray?