How many lifetimes do we spend in our fox suits? They are not wasted. All forms are part of the lively package of existence. Turning words and sudden awakenings even from long-suffering can appear anywhere and in the most unexpected ways.
Baizhang’s Fox – Cause & Effect in a Fox Life
Links to Audio, Video, & Text on the topic
How many lifetimes do we spend in our fox suits? They are not wasted. All forms are part of the lively package of existence. The abbot agrees that the fox-body will have its due with a full-on funeral attended by the whole monastery. Turning words and sudden awakenings even from long-suffering can appear anywhere and in the most unexpected ways.
We do things over and over and over until suddenly we jump the grid, leave the confinement.
What foxy chains do you see standing in the way of your practice?
What if these were not the chains that they appear to be?
Can you have chains of grace?
Questions from Chris Gaffney
Baixhang’s Fox: A Tale of Transformation
Whenever Baizhang gave a talk, an old man was there listening. When the people left, he left too. One day he stayed behind.
“Who are you?” asked the teacher.
The old man said, “It’s true, I’m not a human being. In a previous universe, in a time of a different Buddha, I was the abbot on this mountain. A student asked, ‘Does an enlightened person fall under the law of cause and effect?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘someone like that doesn’t fall under the law of cause and effect.’ Because of this, I’ve been reborn 500 times as a fox. Please, will you say a turning word for me?”
Baizhang said, “You don’t cut the chains of cause and effect.” At these words, the old man had a great awakening.
—Gateless Gate, Case 2 & Book of Serenity, Case 8
VIDEO: On the Moment of Staying: Baizhang’s Fox Koan – with Allison Atwill, Fall Sesshin 2019
AUDIO: Staying with Baizhang’s Abbot-Fox – with Allison Atwill, Fall Sesshin 2019
VIDEO: Zen & Science: What’s Real Magic? – with Chris Gaffney, Monday Zen, Summer 2013
TRANSCRIPT: The Story of the Well Painting – with Allison Atwill, Winter Sesshin 2012
VIDEO: Baizhang’s Fox – with Allison Atwill, Fall Sesshin 2011
Wumen’s poem on the koan of Baizhang’s Fox
Not falling, not evading—
Two faces of the same die.
Not evading, not falling—
A thousand mistakes, ten thousand mistakes.
Wumen also described the old man’s five hundred lives as a fox as five hundred lives of grace.
ARTWORK: PZI Art Card #10: The Koan of the Fox – card by Corey Hitchcock, 2019
ARTWORK: The Fox: Retreat Journal Excerpts – with Corey Hitchcock, 2015
ARTWORK: Fox Burns Me in Effigy – decorated paper and paint by Corey Hitchcock, 2015
ARTWORK: Baizhang’s Fox – painting from Allison Atwill, 2011, & full-length version of the fox koan
AUDIO: On Lostness & the Spiral Path of Practice – with John Tarrant, Sunday Zen, Winter 2023
AUDIO: The Transformations in Things – with John Tarrant, Sunday Zen, Winter 2022
AUDIO: Tortoise Mountain Wakes Up! – with John Tarrant, Sunday Zen, Winter 2021
TRANSCRIPT: Enter Here, Step Through – with John Tarrant, Sunday Zen, Winter 2018