So our lifelong experience of perceiving something, gaining understanding about it, mastering it, and in this way knowing it will not reveal this miraculous power. That’s why we do zazen. In zazen we use our knowledge and understanding of the dharma—the basic teachings and principles of practice—but not by thinking about it. Instead of engaging our typical way of knowing, we return to the very source of miraculous power itself, which is beyond thinking and knowing.

The student in this koan asks “Why is it so difficult to find the traces of a bodhisattva of no miraculous power?” Clearly the student has heard something about this bodhisattva of no miraculous power and he wants to understand. Daido Roshi’s footnote says, “It’s not really difficult, except for those who are searching for it.” Searching is essential, yet in taking our first step to find it, we move away from the very thing we seek. Thus, walking the path of practice and realization requires discovering how to search earnestly, yet without taking a single step. As an old master said, “If you want to come closer, don’t move!”

Daowu said, “Those who travel together know it.” Roshi’s commentary says this means “…that it’s like one bright pearl whose radiance cannot be contained. ‘Cannot be contained’ means reaching everywhere, traceless.” So traveling together is not side-by-side. It’s not someone in front and someone behind. It’s one bright pearl, one vast, unbounded body. It’s a kind of traveling in which you don’t depart and you never arrive; in which you leap beyond, but there’s no transcendence. It’s a subtle communication with buddhas and bodhisattvas, with enlightened beings.

Often it is when we see compassion embodied in another, such as a great teacher, that we begin to see how to discover the source of compassion within ourselves. Through practice and seeing into our self nature, we come face to face with that source, the selfless, non-abiding truth that is our own nature—the selflessness that is the source of true compassion. But how do we carry it forth into this day?