PZI Teacher Archives

Zhaozhou's Why Don't You Finish It? (BCR 59)

KOAN:

A student asks Zhaozhou, “You’ve said that the Great Way is not difficult if you don’t pick and choose. As soon as someone thinks or speaks, we think that’s picking and choosing. So how can you help people?”
And Zhaozhou says, “Why don’t you finish the quotation?”
And the student says, “I only remember the poem up to here.”
Zhaozhou says “It’s only this: The Great Way is not difficult, if you just avoid picking and choosing.”

Xuedou’s Verse:

If you pour water into water,
it doesn’t get wetter;
wind blowing cannot enter.
The tiger prowls, the dragon walks,
ghosts howl, the spirits wail.

—Blue Cliff Record Case 59 (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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