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W E L C O M E  to the PZI Events Calendar! Here you will find all upcoming events and registration links for PZI Zen Online retreats, sesshins, and weekly meditations & talks. Search by individual event, day, or month. Save to your Google Calendar or iCal Calendar. No experience required to participate. Questions? Contact [email protected].


Sunday Zen: The Red Thread with Guest Host Tess Beasley

on March 26

Zen Luminaries: Shamanic Bones, Dark Gates with special guest Zenju Earthlyn Manuel on March 27

In Person! GREAT SUMMER SESSHIN coming soon, June 12–18

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WEDNESDAY ZEN: Your Own Radiance with David Weinstein

February 22 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Free – $10


A monk said to Yunmen, “The radiance serenely illumines the whole universe…”
Before he had finished the line, Yunmen interrupted him and asked, “Are those the words of Zhangzhuo?”
The monk said, “Yes, they are.”
Yunmen said, “You have misspoken.”

—Gateless Gate Case 39

I was recently asked to help find the origin of a koan involving Bankei, a 17th Century Japanese Zen teacher. The version of the story I was asked about goes like this:

Bankei was approached by a priest who boasted that his master possessed miraculous powers. This master could take a brush and write Amida in the air and the word would appear on a sheet of paper in the distance. Challenged to equal this, Bankei replied, “My miracle is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I drink.”

I checked all the English translations of Bankei that I am aware of, and found one place where he says something about eating when hungry and sleeping when tired, but no miracle is mentioned. I also found that Yuanwu in the 11th century, and both Dazhu Huihai and Linji in the 8th century, also said something about eating when hungry, sleeping when tired.

So, the source of the ‘miracle’ of Zen became complicated. Was it Huihai and Linji because they are the earliest record of it? And what about the ‘miracle’ part? It was about then that Yunmen’s ‘You have misspoken’ paid me a visit.

This quote from Yunmen reminds me of a quote that is attributed to Picasso, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Picasso had an ‘African Period,’ when he painted in a style strongly influenced by African sculpture, particularly traditional African masks. I wonder how Picasso would have responded had Yunmen asked him about his art being influenced by African sculpture and masks. I suspect Picasso would have answered in a way that would not have resulted in Yunmen saying, “You have misspoken.”

A couple of other koans involving Yunmen came along while keeping company with the ‘misspoken’ koan. One involved the question to Yunmen, “How about when one makes a hole in the wall in order to steal the neighbor’s light?” to which he responded, “That’s it!” Another koan that came along was the occasion of Yunmen advising a student, “Forget about the light, show me the reaching.”

There were also echoes of Yunmen’s teacher Muzhou’s teacher Huangbo, who likened some students to ‘gobblers of brewer’s dregs’ in the way they practiced. In this koan about misspeaking, I can hear Yunmen once again encouraging us to reach and even steal. Picasso was encouraging artists to reach beyond themselves, beyond stealing, or borrowing, or even creating.

There are unlimited commentaries on koans that we can read—various people saying what they believe a koan is about. Looking to those commentaries as a way to become intimate with the koan is like trying to get to know somebody based only on what other people have written about them. You can’t really get to know somebody that way. 

However, having met the person, reading what someone else may have written about them can be interesting, as we agree or disagree with what someone else has to say, we become more intimate with what we know to be true for ourselves. When we know what is true for ourselves, it doesn’t matter where it came from, it comes from us and then we are not misspeaking.

David Weinstein Roshi

Join us for a koan, meditation, dharma talk, & conversation.
All are welcome. Register to participate.



February 22
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Free – $10
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David Weinstein Roshi
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