Purify Your Ordinary Bones

Dharma Discourse by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Sensei
Book of Serenity, Case 57
Yanyang's "Thing"

Featured in Mountain Record 32.2, Winter 2013-2014

Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, Sensei is the abbot and director of operations of Zen Mountain Monastery.


Playing with reflections, struggling for the form, you don’t recognize that the form is the source of the reflection. Raising your voice to stop an echo, you don’t know the voice is the root of the echo. If it’s not riding an ox looking for an ox, then it’s using a wedge to remove a wedge. How can you avoid these extremes?

Main Case

Venerable Yanyang asked Zhaozhou, “When not a single thing is brought, then what?”
Zhaozhou said, “Put it down.”
Yanyang said, “If I don’t bring a single thing, what should I put down?”
Zhaozhou said, “Then carry it out.”


Not prepared for meticulous action, he loses to the first to move—
Realizing himself the coarseness of his mind, he’s embarrassed at bumping his head.
When the game is ended, the axe handle’s rotted at his side:
Clean and purify the ordinary bones to play with the immortals.