PZI Teacher Archives

Beyond Clarity & Confusion


Jesse Cardin gets a phone call about a warrant for his arrest and enters the realms of clarity and confusion. Who can wait quietly till the mud settles? It’s not our business if we’re clear or confused. Whatever arrives carries us through. Stories and koans from the Odyssey, Daodejing, Yunmen, and a hermit who enters the jumbled mountains without a backward glance. As recorded April 24th, 2022.



Zhaozhou taught, “The greatest way is not difficult if you don’t pick and choose. As soon as I speak, you’ll think, ‘That’s picking and choosing,’ or ‘That’s clear.’ But I don’t identify with clarity. Can you live this way?”
A student asked, “If you don’t identify with clarity, what do you live by?”

“Again, I don’t know.”

—The Blue Cliff Record, Case 2

Being clear is irrelevant to the project: if you only live in clarity, not much light gets in.

Notice where you want to abide…in clarity? in confusion?

The story of a call from the sheriff who tells Jesse there’s a warrant out for his arrest—setting in motion a swirl of confusion and struggle for clarity over the next few hours…finding himself hijacked by the experience.

Landing in not knowing—not being able to settle anywhere or have a clear path of action:

—What am I supposed to do here?
—What’s the right move?
—What do I even want here?

Even better, what’s it like to be confused?

We think that confusion needs to be dispelled, but confusion itself is grace. Barriers seems so real, as if there is no space to move. “If I take the wrong step it will get worse,” so I make myself small.

Yunmen’s Two Sicknesses, Book of Serenity, Case 11:

—Seeing through nothing
—Seeing through everything—yet something is still hidden (we’re not free of the light…)

The bodhisattva path is to bring the Dharma into the world. It’s not my business if I’m clear or confused. I just operate in what’s been given to me. Whatever arrives will carry us through this moment.


Who can wait quietly till the mud settles?

Story of Odysseus and the sirens: When the sirens sing so sweetly and urgently, what should you do? Stuff wax in your ears and sail by? Or have your companions lash you to the mast so you can hear them but remain steadfast, being carried by your vessel through the waters…and then, what next? Where to go?

The Oracle says to him,

I will not give you instructions on where to go next—let your heart decide.

Something about the practice keeps you rooted.

Poem: Utopia by Wislawa Szymborska

Koan: The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak, Blue Cliff Record Case 25

Read More