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Feb 21 Zen Luminaries: Psychiatrist Mark Epstein

Feb 24 Saturday Daylong: with Jesse Cardin

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WEDNESDAY ZEN: Barriers or Gates? with David Weinstein

March 29, 2023 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Free – $10

REGISTER

A student asked Zhaozhou, “What is Zhaozhou?”
Zhaozhou replied, “East Gate, West Gate, South Gate, North Gate.”

—Blue Cliff Record Case 9

In this koan, it is hard to know whether the student is asking about Zhaozhou the teacher, or about Zhaozhou the town that was the source of the teacher’s name. Xuedou, the original compiler of the one hundred cases comprising the Blue Cliff Record, comments on this by saying, “There are thorns in the soft mud. If it’s not south of the river, then it’s north of the river.” If Zhaozhou answers about the city, the “thorn in the mud” is the student saying he was asking about Zhaozhou the teacher, and vice versa. Zhaozhou is unfazed as he responds to both possibilities with one answer. In a longer version of the same koan, after Zhaozhou responds, the student does indeed pursue the question by saying “That’s not the Zhaozhou I was asking about.” To which Zhaozhou replies, unfazed again, “Which Zhaozhou were you asking about?” And it ends there.

Case 52 in the Blue Cliff has a similar flavor to Case 9; it involves Zhaozhou and a different student:

A student asked Zhaozhou, “For a long time I’ve heard about the stone bridge of Zhaozhou. But now that I’ve come, I see only a log across the river.”
Zhaozhou said, “You just see the log bridge, you don’t see the stone bridge.”
“What is the stone bridge?” asked the student.
“Donkeys cross, horses cross.” replied Zhaozhou.

As in Case 9, it is hard to tell if the student is referring to Zhaozhou the teacher or to the bridge of Zhaozhou. As in Case 9, Zhaozhou is unfazed as he responds. Again, Zhaozhou responds by pointing to an activity, not a thing. Zhaozhou is the four gates in the four directions; you can enter from anywhere. It is about the entering and leaving, whether it is the town or the teacher. Zhaozhou is the activity of donkeys crossing and horses crossing—anyone can cross freely.

The Chinese character used for “gate” can also mean “obstacle” or “barrier.” That is what Zhaozhou is and that is what we are: barriers that are gates. Six hundred years before Zhaozhou and five thousand miles away, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, wrote, “What stands in the way becomes the way.” 

What is standing in your way?

image: painting by Rene Magritte


David Weinstein Roshi

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

—David

Details

Date:
March 29, 2023
Time:
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Cost:
Free – $10
Event Category:

Organizer

David Weinstein Roshi
Email:
dweinstein@pacificzen.org
Register here to attend:
https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/Nzk5NTc=