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July Recess:
No Sunday Zen in July! Enjoy a July recess. We’ll see you again in August

August 4 Sunday Zen: With John Tarrant & Friends

August 8–11 Open Mind Retreat: With John Tarrant, Allison Atwill, & Tess Beasley

August 12 Zen Luminaries: Robert Hass in Conversation with Jon Joseph & Friends


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WEDNESDAY ZEN: A Change of Heart: Muzhou & Linji – with David Weinstein

May 3, 2023 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Free – $10


Linji asked Huangbo, “What is the great meaning of the Dharma?”
Huangbo hit him.
This happened three times.
Linji then took his leave and went to see Dayu.
Dayu asked, “Where have you come from?”
Linji said, “From Huangbo.”
Dayu said, “What did Huangbo have to say?”
Linji said, “I asked him three times, ‘What is the great meaning of the Dharma?’ and I got his stick three times. I don’t know if I was at fault or not.”
Dayu said, “Huangbo was overly gentle like an old grandmother; he completely exhausted himself for your sake. Yet you come here and ask if you were at fault or not!”
With these words, Linji came to great enlightenment.

Linji had been sitting at Huangbo’s place for three years without ever going in to have a conversation with him when this interaction occurred. But it was not the first time they had met. There is another story that takes place early on in Linji’s stay at Huangbo’s.

In that story, Huangbo had come into the meditation hall for the daily morning greeting to walk around the hall passing in front of each person sitting in meditation. Though called “the morning greeting,” it also had the air of inspecting the troops. As Huangbo progressed down the line of meditators, he came to Linji, who was bobbing and weaving, nearly falling off his cushion as he surfed the edge of being asleep and awake.

Huangbo walked with a staff of appropriate proportions to his seven-foot frame, and when he slammed that staff down to the ground in front of Linji, the sound reverberated through the hall like a great drum. I imagine a number of people jumped off their cushions at hearing that sound. But not Linji. Without missing a bob or a weave, he looked up from his cushion to Huangbo and said, “Good morning teacher!” and continued his bobbing and weaving.

Huangbo’s response was to do an about-face and return to the head of the line where the person in charge, Muzhou, was sitting. Huangbo stopped there, bent down, and while whispering into Muzhou’s ear, he pointed down the line to the bobbing and weaving Linji. Muzhou shook his head and said to Huangbo, “I don’t know what we’re going to do about that one.” Once again, Huangbo slammed his staff to the ground and not whispering at all said, “He’s doing good meditation, why are you sitting here asleep?”

In the current koan, it is Muzhou who notices that since arriving, Linji had not gone in to speak with Huangbo. Projecting my own small-mindedness onto Muzhou, it is hard not to think that Muzhou might have been getting a little revenge on Linji by having him upbraided by Huangbo so publicly in the meditation hall. We are told that Muzhou asked Linji why he hadn’t gone in to speak with the teacher. Linji replied that he didn’t know what to ask. Rather than saying, “Then go in without knowing what to ask,” Muzhou suggested something that Linji could ask, and I suspect Muzhou knew very well what Huangbo’s reply would be.

Each time Linji went in and asked the question, Huangbo hit him and threw him out. Each time Linji was thrown out, Muzhou picked him up and encouraged him to go back in until Linji decided to leave, feeling he had no karmic connection with Huangbo.

Then something interesting happened.

Muzhou seemed to have had a change of heart regarding Linji. Perhaps Linji’s willingness to go in again and again with the same question only to be beaten and thrown out again and again touched Muzhou’s heart. He tells Linji that he should go in one last time and say goodbye to the teacher before he leaves.

Muzhou then went in to speak with Huangbo to arrange Linji’s exit interview, telling Huangbo that he thought Linji was extraordinary and asking Huangbo to advise him accordingly. Hence Muzhou’s grandmotherly kindness. Huangbo heeded Muzhou’s advice, perhaps remembering his encounter with Linji’s bobbing and weaving: Huangbo’s grandmotherly kindness.

Dayu’s confronting Linji about not appreciating the grandmotherly kindness he had been shown at Huangbo’s place was Dayu’s grandmotherly kindness. Linji’s realization that there was no fault to be found in his interaction with Huangbo was Linji’s own grandmotherly kindness towards himself, which can be the hardest to allow.

—David Weinstein

David Weinstein Roshi

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



May 3, 2023
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Free – $10
Event Category:


David Weinstein Roshi
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