Tasting Immortality

Dharma Discourse by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei
True Dharma Eye, Case 119
Zhaozhou's Cypress Tree

Featured in Mountain Record 32.2, Winter 2013-2014

Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei is the Head of the Mountains and Rivers Order and the abbot of the Zen Center of New York City: Fire Lotus Temple.


Main Case

A student asked Zhaozhou, “What is the meaning of the Ancestor’s coming from India?”

Zhaozhou said, “The cypress tree in the garden.”

The student said, “Master, please don’t teach using an object.”

Zhaozhou said, “I’m not showing an object to you.”

The student said, “What is the meaning of the Ancestor’s coming from India?”

Zhaozhou said, “The cypress tree in the garden.”

Commentary

Zhaozhou’s Zen cuts off the myriad streams and stuns the mind. There is just no place to take hold of it. This cypress tree is not to be found in the world of phenomena, nor can it be found in the realm of emptiness. Then where shall we search for it?

Putting aside the cypress tree, I ask you, what is the meaning of the Ancestor’s coming from India? If you can clearly see into the monastic’s question, you will see through Zhaozhou’s response.

If you think there’s any meaning whatsoever, then you won’t be able to save even yourself. If you say there is no meaning, you are still a hundred miles from the truth. What will you say?

Verse

Nothing whatsoever to say.
The pine trees singing
in spring’s warm breeze.
The ten thousand hymns of forest and wind
fill the river valley.