PZI Teacher Archives

Zhaozhou's Idiot (BCR 57)


A student asked, “The Great Way is not difficult if you just don’t pick and choose. What is not picking and choosing?”
Zhaozhou said, “Above the heavens, below the heavens, I’m alone and honored.” 
And the student says, “That’s still picking and choosing!”
And Zhaozhou says, “Idiot, where’s the picking and choosing?” 

Note: That’s a quotation: When Buddha was born, immediately he pointed up and he pointed down, took seven steps, and said, “Above the heavens, below the heavens, I am alone and honored.” 

Commentary: Yuanwu says, “Before you’ve seen through, it all seems like a silver mountain, like an iron cliff.”

—Blue Cliff Record Case 57 (transl. John Tarrant & Joan Sutherland)

Text November 23, 2022

A Blue Cliff Record Journey of Not Picking & Choosing

John Tarrant

It’s kind of remarkable that the Picking & Choosing koan appears four times in the Blue Cliff Record, which contains only one hundred cases. So, what to do with it? When everybody tries to make sense of it, things happen: They get captured and taken off by pirates or drug lords. You’ve got to be careful in Zen.

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