Woman at the Inn (MK32)

KOAN:

There was a woman who kept the pilgrim’s inn at Hara under Mt Fuji. Her name is unknown, and it is not known when she was born or died.

She went to hear a talk by Hakuin, who said, “The Pure Land where everything is only mind, the Buddha of Infinite Light in your own body—once Amida appears, mountains, rivers, and earth, plants, trees, and forests, all glow with a great light. If you want to see this, look into your own heart. Since the Pure Land is only mind, what kind of special features would it have? Since the Buddha of Infinite Light is your own body, how would you recognize it?”

When she heard this, the woman said to herself, “This isn’t so hard.”

Returning home, she meditated day and night, asking these questions while she was awake and during sleep. One day, as she was washing a pot, she had a sudden breakthrough. She tossed the pot aside and rushed to see Hakuin.

She said, “I’ve run across Amida in my own body, and everything on earth is shining with a great light. It’s wonderful!” She danced for joy.

“Is that so?” Hakuin asked, “But what about a pile of shit—does it shine with a great light too?”

The woman ran up and slapped him, saying, “You still don’t get it, you old fart!”

– PZI Miscellaneous Koans, Case 32

Text August 25, 2020

You Know Nothing (of Zen) – The Woman at the Inn

John Tarrant

You can trust that the thing that you are doing is going to work. It’s underground. There’s a growth happening in the dark. You don’t even have to see it. But, after a while, you start to notice it. It’s kind of a cool thing, actually. You think, “God, even me! Even I have some part in this.”

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